Primates Vs. Fascists

Caesar goes apeshit as his apocalyptic trilogy ends

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

War of the Planets of the Apes
Opens July 14

A cut above most blockbusters, the new Planet of the Apes series set itself apart with understatement, unrelenting grimness and the most advanced motion-capture technology available. This rare, low-key blockbuster franchise has served as the ultimate showcase for the world’s authority in mo-cap performance, Andy Serkis — usually accompanied by a token A-lister (James Franco, Gary Oldman).

Through Dawn and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we’ve watched Caesar (Serkis) become the leader of his kind, while humans are being wiped out by the same virus that’s making primates intelligent. War opens with the apes living in the forest in the middle of winter, and looking for a more hospitable region.

Then, under the belief the apes are out to get them (thanks, Koba), a group of soldiers led by Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson) attacks the primates’ community, causing irreparable damage. Hungry for revenge, Caesar all but abandons his furry friends in a foolhardy mission that puts the clan at further risk.

Inspired by Apocalypse Now to an unhealthy degree (Harrelson is sunglasses-at-night crazy), War for the Planet of the Apes is impeccably done but a bit senseless. The motivation for the soldiers to attack the simian community is fuzzy, even if the excuse is having a fascist madman in charge (wait a minute…).

The film also retreads themes from Dawn, namely, that humankind’s hubris is the cause of its demise.

From a purely visual perspective, War is tremendous. Caesar’s journey to become a leader, however, is tortuous and repetitive, and the metaphors get ham-fisted. One wishes there had been a clearer map to this end from the beginning. ❧