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FLICKS: War for the Planet of the Apes

Posted on 19 July 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

When the original Star Wars was released 40 summers ago, people began looking for deeper meaning in the film. Writer/director George Lucas admitted to be influenced by Professor Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which explores the theory of the “monomyth.” Regardless of culture, the story of the hero is a universal rite of passage. The same thing holds true in a different film, War for the Planet of the Apes, the final part of a trilogy in which we witness the rite of passage for Caesar, an ape who was destined to destroy the world as we know it.

After the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the charismatic leader of the apes and proud family ape. When the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) raids an ape encampment, Caesar’s wife and child are killed. Caesar plans revenge and the rescue of his surviving son, Cornelius.

With his trusty associates by his side, Caesar pursues his course of action. He is sidetracked by a little orphan girl who cannot speak and bad ape (Steve Zahn), a clumsy chimpanzee who was previously incarcerated in a zoo. Despite his previous military success, Caesar’s quest for vengeance leads the heroic ape into the heart of darkness.

While it would help to see the previously released Planet of the Apes movies, War for the Planet of the Apes works as a standalone drama. The wages of war weigh heavily on Caesar, a heroic protagonist who is unable to find peace for himself. He is a character we have sympathy for, which makes War for the Planet of the Apes such a successfully subversive movie.

While Caesar’s motivation leads to enlightenment, the Colonel’s journey leads to a logical madness. With echoes of Joseph Campbell’s novella Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, this Colonel is both Caesar’s antagonist and alter ego. When both confront one another, the Colonel compares this meeting with the time General Lee met General Grant to close out the American Civil War.

The War for the Planet of the Apes caps off the most intelligent science fiction trilogy of recent years. Using Caesar as our guide, larger issues like genetics, civil liberties and war are examined. The discussions between the Colonel and Caesar are fascinating, but this film has many throwaway moments and Easter eggs that are thought-provoking, but funny also.

Before Star Wars, 20th Century Fox’s most successful science fiction franchise was their five Planet of the Apes films. While pessimistic, these films provided satirical humor about 1960s humanity. With less cartoon humor, the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy is far darker, but it is an entertainingly told story.

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