Friday, August 04, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes


The War for the Planet of the Apes suffers from wrong expectations.

One: the title says War.

Two: the chief ape, the protagonist, is named after a conqueror. Although war can have a figurative meaning with one character named Caesar the story had to go to some kind of battle. 

Blood was already shed in the last round, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, naturally I expected escalation especially since Woody Harrelson is in to play the Colonel. And that trailer didn't leave room for doubt.

Three: I always thought this trilogy will connect with 1968 Planet of the Apes which starred Charlton Heston, not that any plot point in the previous two movies suggested it will ever go in that direction but how could I not. Unlike Tim Burton’s version in 2001, the current trilogy had an air of being a prequel. Prequels always end up to somewhere familiar which I assumed was the original.

I’ve never seen original but I do remember the Statue of Liberty scene which implied something tragic has happened to Earth that man caused. Someone in Hollywood is bound to play with the idea of what it is.

Suffice to say I never got anywhere close to the movie I was picturing in my mind. 

The opening scene was up to expectations with Caesar vs a human assault force. After that Caesar's son was killed so naturally he gave chase to find the killer, going through a vast snowy landscape. War for the Planet of the Apes ended up as a hairy version of the Revenant only without the bear.

There was no war in the traditional sense. No wit of one general against another. There was barely even one on one combat in the lines of the champion of one side fighting the champion of another. None of that happened even when the Colonel and Caesar (Andy Serkis) eventually met.

If anything Caesar was at war with himself. He’s divided between revenge and leadership. He reassesses his principles and the sides of the conflict. Caesar’s adage of Ape not killing Ape points to a belief in superiority against man and an air of exclusion that may rival the way man sees ape. A young human girl tests all of this.

Had it not for the expectations that were set up and not met – trailer, previous movies, title – the story is ok. The story going that direction is not bad after all a story like the Revenant was nominated for best picture. 

What I hated more than most is that the Colonel had Caesar and his entire tribe captive. I think they call this villain monologue or evil gloating; hero escape scene follows a few minutes after. Nothing is more annoying in all of cinema than the villain missing his chance because he kept on talking. That is, unless you believe in the reason why the hero was kept alive.

The Colonel did not gloat although it was a monologue. Caesar was not in the mood to answer back after he pleaded for his people. And eventually the Colonel did talk too much not because Caesar escaped – which he did – but because what he said killed the soul of the movie.

The Colonel confessed that he foresees that apes will rule the earth eventually, pointing to, among other things, the virus. Hearing that, I thought about character motivation, the decisions the Colonel made, everything lost all sense. Even Caesar and his tribe becomes inconsequential. 

I only saw the trailer while encoding in this blog and the Colonel’s damn line, short of the virus, is in the trailer.

If the antagonist says apes - the protagonist - ruling everything is a foregone conclusion, why am I watching this movie for? What is the point of the story?