Poignant and powerful, War for the Planet of the Apes completes Caesar’s journey to being human. In the process, it also establishes his race as the deserving survivor of planet Earth.
War for the Planet of the Apes Synopsis
After the events of Dawn, Caesar is in open conflict with humans, although he maintains his offer of peace in exchange for humans leaving the apes alone. When his wife and eldest son are killed by human soldiers, Caesar embarks on an expedition to confront the military leader responsible for the raid, accompanied only by his closest lieutenants Maurice, Luka, and Rocket. During the journey, they come across a mute young human girl, whom Maurice insists on taking with them. As they encounter more mute humans, several brutally executed, Caesar suspects they might not be the humans’ only enemies. A catastrophic change might have also happened in the human world.
Before I comment on War for the Planet of the Apes, a little about its 60s and 70s predecessors.
I never watched any of these in full, only bits and pieces over the years. My impression? Respectable. Decently produced and acted too. However, the story became increasingly farfetched down the road. This so, even for the genre of speculative storytelling. I ultimately concluded this fault was inevitable because the whole premise of apes replacing humans as the dominant species was simply too feral an idea to work with for long. It was only a matter of time before the story turned ridiculous and wearisome.
I clung onto this prejudice for years. Thankfully, it didn’t prevent me from watching 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The short of it, I emerged from that screening deeply in love with Caesar’s irresistible presence and compelling storyline. Like so many people, I became an ardent fan of the new trilogy.
Three years later, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes brought forth the apocalypse introduced in the 1968 movie. Also, a world in which humans are dying out because of the simian flu epidemic started at the end of Rise. In spite of the overall believability of this premise, I began to wonder again whether the trilogy would, like its predecessors, soon resort to other convenient plot devices. For example, an unexpected nuclear disaster, so as to finish the humans for good.
Well, what I fretted about does happen, although not in Dawn but this new episode, and through the use of a story twist that’s a little more convincing. Overall, this development is somewhat lacking in storytelling finesse to me, and I’d be lying if I say I didn’t find it disappointing. Thankfully, the lacklustre conclusion is more than adequately compensated by the tour-de-force portrayal of an older Caesar. Hardened, conflicted, and heartbroken, breathtaking effects captures all his emotions and more in one swoop, in the process making the ape leader the most relatable human character of all. (And in stark contrast to Woody Harrelson’s Colonel) The pinnacle achievement of this movie: how it completes Caesar’s transition to being “human.” More so than nuclear bombs or viruses, this transition convinces how a Planet of the Apes could come to be. How a Planet of the Apes could come to survive too.
One other thing. That of the splendid score Michael Giacchino whips up for this movie. Majestic and poignant, at times also mischievous and quirky, I found it vaguely reminiscent of 50s and 60s Biblical epics.
After watching the movie, I also read about how writers Bomback and Reeves felt Biblical elements were necessary for this movie. They did throw those in, which the soundtrack then complements wonderfully. In the midst of watching, I actually thought War was paying homage to Charles Heston. Heston, of course, was the lead actor in both The Ten Commandments and 1968’s Planet of the Apes.
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