Ah, Planet of the Apes. I have to say that I’m not entirely sure I’ve seen the original in one sitting, beginning to end. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it all with how many times my father has watched it over the years, but I can’t actually place it in order. I do know enough, and I know the big twist. It’s another example of things that are just sort of ingrained into the culture.
I have, however, seen all of the recent movies in the series starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I love the movies. Their titles, in my opinion, leave a bit to be desired but I also don’t know what else you’d call them. They’re just very wordy.
I do feel a bit for Andy Serkis though. Really, he’s had one main expression on his face since Dawn, and it’s one of serious anger. Occasionally, he gets to have a bit of pride, maybe some sorrow, but mostly it’s just serious anger. I get that Caesar is a serious sort of fellow, but couldn’t he get to smile just once like he did in Rise?
I will say that for a movie titled “War for the” blah blah blah, there was surprisingly little fighting. I mean, yes, there was fighting, beginning, a bit in the middle, and a lot at the end, but really there’s one major fight, two medium ones, and a skirmish here or there and that’s it. Most of it is surprisingly introspective and in general, focusing more on the realities of the aftermath of battle rather than the actual battles themselves.
I wouldn’t want it to be all battle though. Rise and Dawn were not like that. There was so much more going on, so the third in a trilogy should follow suit, possibly even more so since it is the last in the trilogy.
And it is the last. Without going into too much detail, this definitively ends the story they set out to tell. If they make more, it will probably be remakes rather than telling new stories.
At least it is a good ending. It is very satisfying. It feels like the culmination of everything began and set up in the previous two movies, as it should, while also setting up directly what we know is coming because of the original movies. People with far better memories (or maybe they’ve just seen the movies more recently) told me there were a lot of callbacks to the original movie, and while I’m certain I did not catch all of them, I caught enough to appreciate they were there.
That being said, I also feel like this is a movie you could enjoy even without knowledge of the original, and possibly without the knowledge of the two that came before. I think there are details and motivations that would be lost if you hadn’t seen Rise and Dawn, but the way it’s presented, I feel like War would be accessible to newcomers. There is a neat and tidy explanation of the first two in the beginning without going into too much detail as to bore those who did see them, but also to help jog memories, and the rest is given with enough context that I think most could figure it out, though I do think there is one plot point that might be a little fuzzy if you hadn’t seen the others, or at least Dawn.
Also, there is a little girl throughout most of the movie with the group. And that is not a spoiler. She’s in the trailers and on the posters. And while she’s a little bit…freaky looking, she is actually quite charming and very nice. Not too sweet, not too cloying, but just enough. I am easily put off by kids in movies, but I got over it pretty quickly with this one. Maybe it helps she doesn’t talk.
There is one major point I want to discuss, but it is a major spoiler so if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read past here.
SPOILER UNDER HERE!
I think that, honestly, the most tragic character in the story is the Colonel. Although he was a pretty awful person, I can understand in a twisted way why he did what he did. He is depicted as this merciless, vile person who will do whatever it takes to get to his own end. The ends justify the means, as they said. And while he is terrible, it’s not without reason. He is given a reason, an understandable reason.
He is trying to save humanity by eradicating a virus any way he can, thereby keeping it from spreading and keeping humanity human. This virus was hypothesized to be a mutation of the original Simian Flu from Rise, and although it doesn’t technically kill anyone now, it does cause any affected human to lose higher brain function, and the ability to speak, and possibly other things, and basically reduce them to animals. Really, worse than animals in a way because even most animals can communicate in their own way. Humans affected by this are reduced to gasps and maybe a grunt or two if they’re lucky, but I also think that the Colonel was somewhat off the mark as it seemed to me those affected also still held quite a bit of intelligence or at least understanding even if they were not as able to communicate or reason as they once were.
However, the Colonel felt that this would reduce humans to mere animals, allowing the apes to rise and conquer, and would rid humans of everything that made them special, made them human. And he’s probably not wrong. It’s hard to say what exactly does make us human, though many have tried, and this speculation is in fact one of the hallmarks of science fiction writing. So in an effort to save humanity, he would kill or have his men kill anyone they identified as having this disease before it could spread, and kill anyone who sympathized or was close to them. This includes the Colonel’s son, whom the Colonel professed to killing himself.
The tragedy comes in the form of what happens to the Colonel. He worked so hard at keeping this infection at bay, even going so far as to wage war against other humans who were trying to find a cure, and one mistake brought him down. The little girl was infected, and she had a doll that she carried, which had her blood on it, and presumably sweat and anything else that could carry and transmit the disease.
Sort of like the Velveteen Rabbit.
But the Colonel didn’t know where the doll came from. If he had, I have no doubt he would’ve never handled it himself, and would’ve burned it immediately. Instead, he takes it with him, keeps it in his office. Who knows why. Possibly just trying to figure out what it was and where it came from. And when we see him next, when Caesar comes to find him, the Colonel has become infected.
He was so terrified of the disease, he killed his own son, and in the end, became the very thing he despised. It’s actually pretty tragic, and despite all the terrible things he did, I felt for him when he basically begged Caesar to kill him. And when Caesar did not, the Colonel took his own life. The Colonel hated Caesar, but he hated the disease more and was willing to let Caesar go if it meant, to him, giving humanity a chance.
It’s almost poetic.