War for Planet of the Apes
The most poetic a blockbuster has gotten to is perhaps Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, but that is more of a noir series than a philosophical journey. Director Matt Reeves, however, has found a perfect vehicle to try and explore what makes us all human in his latest blockbuster and third entry of the series: War for Planet of the Apes.
War for Planet of the Apes picks up a few years after the end of Dawn of Planet of the Apes, the humans are still in dwindling numbers after the outbreak of the Simian Virus that killed them off, and the survivors are bent on killing the apes after the rogue ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) struck out on his own in the last film. Koba perished at the end of the last film, but here the leader and main character of the series, Caesar (Andy Serkis), is still suffering the after-effects of Koba’s reckless behavior; he and his tribe are being hunted down by a rogue Colonel (Woody Harrelson). Caesar is a sensible leader and wants peace, but after the Colonel strikes a personal blow, a quest begins for revenge.
Matt Reeves decided that he wanted to tell an epic tale, and we get a mix of themes in War for Planet of the Apes; we have some biblical aspects and a heavy old western influence. In fact, we seem to have a lot of great themes except that of war. If there is anything taken away from the film, it’s a very anti-bellicose message. But Matt Reeves also takes time to explore how being a specific species doesn’t necessarily make us “human.” The apes in this film bring about a more diverse array of emotions from both the characters and the audience than any of the humans.
And I couldn’t miss talking about the technological marvels of this film. As in any of the previous motion-capture films of Andy Serkis, critics and audience members are left in awe. We first saw Serkis prominently as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings franchise, but in Planet of the Apes we see not only a more curtailed actor, but also an amazing technology to accompany it. Each hair on the ape’s body has been rendered to a beautiful perfection, and the ability to have an actor express so much through a digitalized ape’s face and eyes is something that will continue to amaze me for years.
The only drawback some might have with this film is that it is very long, and sometimes slow. But this is because people come into this film expecting a typical Hollywood blockbuster showcasing monkeys blasting machine guns on horses against the US military; instead we should rejoice we got a patient and deep look into a very relevant philosophical aspect today: does being born human make us “human”?