Friday, July 28, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) is a sequel to the American science fiction films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). Matt Reeves directs, and co-writes the script with Mark Romback. They were both involved with the previous episode in 2014.

The direction and writing is professional, and held my interest throughout. I felt no inclination to boredom and falling asleep. Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, is believable. The rest of the cast of apes is equally attractive, and realistic. It is easy to side with them against the human soldiers. The cinematography by Michael Seresin, is excellent. The costumes are amazing, as the Apes look real, not dressed up. The music by Michael Giacchino, is original and appropriate. The acting is surprisingly good, considering that more than half the main cast are dressed in ape costumes. Steve Zahn is appealing as Bad Ape, who isn't really bad at all. Woody Harrelson as the leader of the para-military group of humans is suitably menacing. He is obsessed with killing off all the Apes, so has to go, in the end.

The story is the classic epic of captive people, a mighty leader saving them, leading them into a new world with a future. The highly intelligent Apes, under the leadership of Caesar, hear that the humans are planning to attack and eliminate the Apes. The Apes are forced into a just war of defense. The humans capture all the Apes and force them into a work camp. Caesar escapes, and blows up the human military post. This triggers an avalanche which wipes out the human army which is arriving on the scene, that is also intent on obliterating the Apes. The final scenes are of the beautiful world the Apes will move into, as Caesar dies, to become a legend. Simplistic, but still great stuff! Is this the end of the trilogy, or will there be more in the new life ahead? It was left open-ended, as it were.

I was struck by the similarities to the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. In the Moses story, the Hebrews moved down into Egypt of their own freewill, but, in time became the work force of the Egyptians. Moses, who had been brought up as an Egyptian prince in the palace of the Pharaoh, instead of demanding rights for the Hebrews from the Egyptians, led them out of Egypt. When the Egyptian army rides after them, the Red Sea engulfs the soldiers, swallowing them up and allowing the Hebrews to escape into the desert of Sinai. After a time of preparation in the desert, Moses reminds the Children of Israel of their history and their culture, before handing over the reins to the younger leader, Joshua, and then dying. Joshua, as representative of the younger generation, leads the people into the Promised Land.

The War for the Planet of the Apes seemed to me a little shallow and wanting in what makes the story of the Exodus so much deeper. There is no unifying factor, other than Caesar, to keep the Apes together as a cohesive unit. The Apes were still living a basic lifestyle, and hadn't yet developed reading and writing, so Caesar couldn't give them a Supreme G-d, and a Holy Book, with the Law, such as Moses handed down to the Hebrews. With the humans all wiped out, there would be no common enemy to add pressure to keep together as one unit. The Promised Land may develop into a nightmare of opposing groups warring with each other, as did early Homo sapiens. On the other hand, that could continue the story of the Apes developing Empires to unite opposing factions and stop the fighting. Empires then fighting each other, until in the end, the whole world is united in one Great World Empire, and peace begins. The United States of the Planet of the Apes has a certain ring to it.

War for the Planet of the Apes is an enjoyable film, one that anyone who likes science fiction can appreciate. It's good to keep up with the latest films to have interesting conversations, especially with the younger generations.

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