Caesar’s swansong ends with a whimper rather than a bang
So who are these apes? And why are they at war over the planet?
War for the Planet of the Apes (I’m going to call it ‘War’ now because that’s a long fucking title) is the third film in the rebooted Apes trilogy that started with 2012’s Rise (of the Planet of the Apes…ugh), which was followed by 2014’s Dawn (of planets and apes etc.). Humanity has been all but wiped out by the plague that made apes smart, and after defeating his ape nemesis Koba in ‘Dawn’, the world’s smartest ape Caesar (played to mo-cap perfection by Andy Serkis) has settled into a peaceful life with his wife, two sons, and a tribal community that feature the wise orangutan, and some other apes from the earlier films you will have forgotten too.
And the SFX work that Weta Digital has done to bring Caesar and the tribe to life is nothing short of astonishing. Many times I forgot I was looking at computer generated animals. It really has to be seen to be believed.
So anyway, Caesar’s life sounds pretty perfect.
Sure does! Sadly, there are still pockets of humanity led by Woody Harrelson’s ‘Colonel’, who’re looking to take Caesar down and scatter the tribe, for the ‘good of humanity’.
Why is it in humanity’s best interest to destroy the apes?
There’s a disease that turns them mute. I dunno, it’s a bit silly. Anyway, after Caesar’s forces annihilate a human scouting party in the very first scene, the Colonel’s men sneak into Caesar’s camp, kill his wife and eldest son, and kidnap his baby boy.
Oh my god!
I know, right!
He must’ve been livid.
Fucking furious. So he sends his tribe off to the desert where they’ll be safe (probably in Nevada, but this is never stated), and heads off with a merry band of his finest apes, and goes in search of the Colonel…and REVENGE.
Well I’m sold.
And so was I! The first two acts are incredibly well paced, and they raise the stakes for Caesar. He’s close to giving in to hate and losing his ‘humanity’ – much like Koba did in the ‘Dawn’.
But I spy “a whimper rather than a bang” in the subtitle? What happened?
The first misstep is somewhere in the second act when the merry monkeys find a mute human girl (who’s dad they shot dead – thanks Caesar), and decide to take her under their collective wing.
And I’m guessing she’s mute because of the mute disease!
Apparently. But her only purpose (other than a cool little twist at the end) is to humanise Caesar, and prove to him that we’re not all bloodthirsty, family killing bastards. And it comes off a little trite.
They’re then joined by ‘Bad Ape’ (that’s his actual name; I had to look that up), a wholly unnecessary and bizarrely slapstick character. He’s the Jar Jar Binks of a franchise that has always played it relatively straight, and I don’t think there are many characters I’ve hated more this year than him.
Physical comedy in an Apes film?
Yep. He trips over shit, he acts like a fucking idiot, and he seems to only exist to appease the children who’ve been dragged to the cinema by their parents. These films might have a 12+ rating over here, but they’re definitely not the target audience for anyone who’d enjoy this shit.
So what happens next? Surely there’s War on the horizon?
Yes and no.
Caesar tracks the Colonel back to his camp, but finds his tribe – and baby boy – incarcerated. They’re starved of food and water, and forced into slave labour.
Slave labour for what?
Well, they’re building a wall. Other humans are coming to fight the Colonel because he’s bad or something, so he’s building a big goddamn wall to keep them out. Caesar ends up getting captured, and then the film loses all its momentum as the apes hatch a plan to escape.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WAR?
As Caesar and his apes are making their escape, the base is attacked by the Colonel’s human fre-nemies, and yeah. Basically they fight each other, and the apes leg it.
I know. I won’t spoil the end end, because well, you might still see it. But when the credits rolled, I left the theatre feeling slightly cheated. Dawn had a bigger battle than War, which seems odd to me given this was the culmination of the franchise, AND IT WAS CALLED WAR FOR THE PLANT OF THE APES.
#sad. So is it worth going to see?
Let’s be honest; you’re only going to see this if you’ve already seen the other two, and in that case yes. You want to see how the trilogy ends, and the first half of it is arguably the best the franchise has been. But if you’re expecting Ape V Man, and the war to end all wars, you’ll likely leave with a slightly bitter taste in your mouth.