Year Released: 2017
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Karen Konoval, Steve Zahn
(PG-13, 140 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“I did not start this war. But I will finish it.” Caesar
It’s kind of like Bravehart. A noble rebel, avenging the death of his wife, leads his outnumbered band of warriors against a treacherous foe. Along the way, he will face betrayal and physical torture as well as the loyalty and love of his cohorts.
Except our hero isn’t a blue painted Scots but an intelligent, wise, and well-spoken ape named Caesar. But you already know that if you have watched the other two prequels in this acclaimed trilogy:
Caesar is a chimpanzee who has led a revolution against the humans that once held him and his kind captive. He now has human intelligence, as the result of an experimental drug to cure Alzheimer’s disease that was tested on his mother. Having freed his fellow apes and given them the drug, Caesar the revolutionary is, however, a reluctant warrior. He just wants to live a life free of the humans, but that task becomes almost impossible after Koba, a chimp badly treated by humans, massacres them. The treacherous Koba also attempts to kill Caesar, but in the end, he is the one who dies, dropped to his death by Caesar.
The newest film begins with a covert attack on the apes by a faction of the military. Although Caesar is generous in victory, allowing the human prisoners free return as a peace offering, their militant colonel (Woody Harrelson) returns that kindness with a surprise commando raid that kills Caesar’s wife and older son. The rest of the film follows Caesar on his quest for revenge, and the battle within him is as furious as the upcoming battle he will have with the colonel and his minions.
The other apes that accompany Caesar are fleshed out as distinct personalities. And the always improving CGI technology allows their facial features to reflect the full spectrum of emotions. What a difference from the now crude looking facial features of the chimpanzees and other apes in the 1968 original Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston.
Maurice (Karen Konoval) is the wise orangutan who tries to counsel Caesar away from vengeance. It is at his stubborn insistence that they take the orphaned mute human girl Nova (Amiah Miller) with them on their quest.
They soon also absorb Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), a lonely refugee from an abandoned zoo who has learned to talk by listening to humans – thus his negative name reflecting their opinion of him. His innocence and past isolation mirror Nova’s
The humans, however, are given little dimension. Woody Harrelson’s colonel, with his shaved head and ruthless instincts, seems a conglomerate of Hollywood stereotypes of skinheads and the military. His men, who seem to delight in neglecting and abusing the apes they have captured, are unthinking machines, who collectively grunt out something very similar to the Marine’s “OoRah.” This alpha omega group has indeed gone rogue, but they are the only humans we see up close, except for the sweet mute Nova,
So, when the battle begins, we are, of course, on the side of the apes, just as we rooted for the refugee outer space aliens in District 9 against their paramilitary and bureaucratic human antagonists. Perhaps a few will even cheer when the colonel’s American flag bursts into flames as his compound comes under siege.
The humans in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) were not so consistently evil. And with the exception of a few of Koba’s disgruntled compatriots who have taken to the human side to avenge his death, most of the apes in this most recent feature are good.
In fact, many see Caesar as a sort of Moses figure, while his torture on an X shaped wooden device in this film hints at a Christ figure.
On the other hand, one might almost envision Peta directing this, though they certainly have shown none of the subtley and exquisite production values evidenced in War for the Planet of the Apes.
If we can ignore the underlying anti-human bias, one finds a beautiful epic that explores mankind’s struggle against its primitive emotions, even if this struggle takes place in the apes and not the humans. And all that without slowing down the action of this fast paced thriller that thunders across the screen.
One of the better summer offerings.
Caesar and his followers are warrior types that would never sit down and sip one of these delightful concoctions featuring delightful fresh pineapple, orange, and lime juice.
Nor would their slightly unhinged foe, the colonel, who seems to rely on the unadulterated hard stuff.
But you certainly should enjoy this sweet concoction featuring créme de banana and Jamaican rum. After all, you are merely watching the war, not participating in it.
Planet of the Apes Cocktail
3/4 ounces créme de banana
2 ounces dark Jamaican rum
1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
fresh banana slice and maraschino cherry to garnish
1 Put all of the ingredients, except for the garnish, into a cocktail shaker filled with 1 cup of crushed ice and vigorously shake the mixture for 35 seconds.
2 Pour the mixture into a tall glass, garnish with the fresh banana slice and maraschino cherry and serve immediately.