“War for the Planet of the Apes” plays like a revenge horse opera, but one softened by a touch of kindness which has karmic ramifications. Written by Mark Bomback with Matt Reeves and directed by Reeves, this is the third installment of the “Planet of the Apes” reboot and adds Woody Harrelson as the villain.
To refresh your memory, the 2001 “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” focused on the relationship between Dr. William Rodman (James Franco) and the chimp he raised. Will worked at a biotech company, Gen-Sys on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The experimental drugs (ALZ-112) are used on chimpanzees. A female chimp test subject, Bright Eyes, goes on a rampage because the chimps are so incompetently managed the researchers didn’t realize she was pregnant and that she had given birth. Her violent attempt to protect her offspring, results in all of the experimental chimps being put down with the exception of her baby.
Will aided by his assistant Franklin sneaks the baby chimp out and raises him, naming him Caesar (Andy Serkis). Will’s father, Charles (John Lithgow), is suffering from Alzheimer’s, giving Will an personal reason for his research, but also an unwitting test subject. Will develops ALZ-113 in a gaseous form. The serum increases the intelligence of chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans, but causes a deadly illness in humans.
Caesar is discovered and impounded with other primates, all of whom are treated cruelly. Caesar breaks out, gets canisters of ALZ-113 and returns to the ape animal shelter, exposes all of the primates to ALZ-113, utters his first words, and leads an ape army to the redwood forest. He has one last parting scene with Will but refuses to come “home” because “Caesar is home.” ALZ-113 virus (Simian flu) is then spread via an infected commercial airplane pilot.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” introduced us to Cornelia (Devyn Dalton), a female chimp who will become Caesar’s mate, to Maurice (Karin Konoval) who is a Bornean orangutan and becomes a close ally to Caesar, and to Koba (Christopher Gordon) who is a male bonobo who was spent his life in experimental labs and feels bitterness toward humans.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. The 2014 “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and directed by Matt Reeves.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” takes place a decade after “Rise” where human civilization has been severely decimated by the plague and Caesar and his colony have become better established. Caesar has a son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), with Cornelia (Judy Greer). Caesar is counseled by his best friend Rocket (Terry Notary) and the quiet but wise Maurice. The Caesar’s primate colony is discovered by humans from a San Francisco colony. After a brief period of cooperation between the human and ape colonies, war starts, instigated by Koba who attempts to murder Caesar while implicating the humans. But Caesar’s main human ally, Malcolm, is similarly betrayed. While Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Caesar part as friends, they also realize there will be a war between their apes and humans.
In “War of the Planet of the Apes,” two years have passed since “Dawn.” The human army that was contacted by the San Francisco colony’s distress signals during “Dawn,” have come too close to the settlement of Caesar’s colony. Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones) and his friend have found a way out of the forest to another place. Winter (Aleks Paunovic) , an albino Western lowland gorilla, wants to leave immediately. Caesar and the others prefer to move more slowly, but The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his men return and invade the heart of the colony. Blue Eyes and Cornelia are killed.Winter mysteriously disappears.
While the rest of the colony readies to leave for the desert, Caesar, overcome with grief and anger, decides to pursue the Colonel. Although he wants to do it alone and doesn’t expect to rejoin his group, Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) insist and going with him. They leave on horseback, following the human soldiers who attacked them. The human soldiers are heading toward the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where hundreds of soldiers took refuge during the plague.
Caesar has said, “We are not savages. Apes fight only to survive” yet now revenges fuels his brain. Previously, Caesar said, “Apes not kill ape” and then rationalized allowing the scarred traitor Koba to die (“Dawn”). He is haunted by Koba as he realizes that his bitterness draws him toward the darkness that fueled Koba’s soul. The human army isn’t without apes. Gorillas, mostly former allies of Koba, have become not allies, but beasts of burden for the human army. Called “donkey” and treated roughly, they carry heavy loads for the humans, including ammunition.
Caesar and his group find and kill a human who is living in a small grouping of shacks. The human seems unable to speak. In the same ramshackle settlement, they find a nameless girl with a blood-stained doll. She is also unable to speak. Caesar doesn’t kill her, but wants to leave her there where, alone, she will surely die. Maurice insists on bringing her with them. As they continue their journey they discover humans are killing other humans, but these humans left to die seem unable to speak. They also discover a small, balding chimp who calls himself “Bad Ape,” living in what was once a ski resort. That chimp helps them find the fort and provides a lot of the humorous interludes. Bad Ape is the only primate that wears clothes.
Revenge is a dish best served cold and the team of Reeves and Bomback takes us to a wintry fort up in snow-covered mountains. While the human leader The Colonel declares, “There’s are times when it is necessary to abandon our humanity to save humanity,” ultimately though, you can’t help but think of another idiom: Kill with kindness. There’s a sense of a tragic karmic cycle in this sequel that along with the touches of humor make it more satisfying than the two preceding movies.
[Spoiler alert] Still there are some breaks of logic concerning taking a large group from a verdant fertile forest to the desert. How will they survive? What will they eat? What have the ape colony and even the human colony been subsisting on? Then, there’s the question of epidemiology. If you want to control a disease, do you really want to be in close quarters with potential carriers (e.g. the gorillas who work as “donkeys” with the army). Are no precautions taken with possible blood contamination during times of war?
Suspend your doubts for 139 minutes and enjoy this Planet of the Apes sequel that ends by questioning the primal instinct for revenge while recommending both cooperation and kindness. “War of the Planet of the Apes” opens 14 July 2017.