As someone who had never seen the last two Planet of the Apes movies, I went into the cinema not knowing what to expect. Matt Reeves, at the helm of the ending installation to the trilogy had standards to uphold, but how would they play out?
I needn’t have worried, because to be absolutely honest – the movie was in all aspects beautiful. For those of us who were unfamiliar about the origins of the Apes, included minimalistically were a few paragraphs of their backstory – a very considerate inclusion from the production side.
This movie follows the manifestation of a race of Apes so intelligent and emotionally sufficient, they’ve rivalled humans in terms of cognitive skills and arguably, strength as well. In a world where the Simian Flu (Heyyo, epidemic virus themed plague) has caused the human race to be weaker and apes stronger, the Alpha-Omega clan, lead by violence-crazy The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is vying to regain control over Earth – with the indistinguishable motivation to WIPE OUT the cute monkeys (arguable, I think they’re adorable).
Throughout the movie, we follow Caesar’s journey as he tries to remove himself and his clan from the remaining ravages of the war that Koba (the Ape King in Dawn) started. Played brilliantly by Andy Serkis, it is impossible not to empathize with his struggle as his one intention to move his clan elsewhere, changes to a deep desire to avenge – his *SPOILER ALERT* slaughtered wife and son. But that does not come easy. Haunted by a few flashbacks of Koba, he struggles with the possibility that he is ultimately becoming a bloodthirsty Ape, with no regard for human life.
That’s where the brilliance of the movie’s screenwriting comes in. In War, Mark Bomback and Reeves himself scripts a wholesome depiction of the motivations behind each of the characters. For example, viewers watching this movie go along with The Colonel’s evil characteristics – and unsurprisingly, grow to hate him as well. But as far as character development goes, his intentions are balanced out with a well-crafted backstory, explained in all the menace the Colonel can muster. So much so, that I’d say we can understand the reasons behind his actions.
Now isn’t that a script we can all applaud?
To add to that are the intentions that each character is developed for. There is no such thing as a pointless persona. First on the list is Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), whose role in War is a mix between court jester as well as the “without-me-the-movie-would-not-have-progressed-ape”. He endears the audience, with easy light hearted one-liners, and is a refreshing touch to the intense movie.
Another, and more on the touching side, is Maurice, one of Caesar’s best guards and ape-friend.
You never see him speak English, resorting to Ape-sign language to communicate with his friends and Caesar. But there are two final instances in which he does talk in English, and it was to communicate some of the most heartfelt lines in the movie. I’ll leave you to it to notice what lines are spoken – but such is the pivotal role in which a side character can play, with the direction and script of Matt Reves.
Some people have described this movie, epic – in which I refrain from. To make a movie epic we would have to see more than 3 quarters of War, depicting the fight between Apes and Humans – frankly speaking, much like a war movie. But to be honest, the last half of the showing were about Apes working and being stuck behind cages. It showcased instead the togetherness and resourcefulness of the Apes trying to figure out an escape.
So no, not epic – but instead, a beautiful tale of leadership, sacrifice, and friendship. This is a movie in which you’d tear up at Caesar’s pure intentions of keeping his family and clan alive. One in which apes are portrayed to be the more humane of the two species of human and ape.
Apes, Together, Strong. Not epic, but beautiful.