“War for the Planet of the Apes”: The Ending to Something Extraordinary

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Caesar (Andy Serkis) returns, and he is not happy, in War for the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Screen Rant)

“War has already begun. Ape started war. And human will not forgive,” says Caesar at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is a send-up to the next film in the beloved franchise.

It has been almost 50 years since Planet of the Apes revolutionized the science-fiction genre with its groundbreaking sets and costume design, thoughtful ideas on faith and evolution, and its shocking twist ending. The franchise has come a long way with the reboots. In Rise, a scientist created a possible Alzheimer’s cure tested on apes including Caesar. While Caesar and his apes are given enhanced intelligence which leads to a battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, the humans are given a virus. In Dawn, the so-called Simian Flu wipes most of humanity. The remaining survivors go into an all-out conflict with Caesar and his fellow apes, while Koba betrays him and begins his trek to kill every human soul. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) returns director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback to focus more on the apes, and give a much darker, grittier, and devastatingly powerful conclusion to one of the best trilogies ever made.

A military group called Alpha-Omega, led by vicious Col. McCullough (Woody Harrelson), begins to emerge. In a breathtaking opening sequence, they attack the apes’ sanctuary in the heart of Muir Woods. Caesar (Andy Serkis), who wanted to offer peace between his fellow apes and the humans for so long, is driven mad after seeing many lives lost. He has plans of relocating his homeland in the middle of the desert, so no humans can be in sight of the apes. Before he could do that, however, he must begin his quest for revenge. Along with Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Maurice (Karin Konoval), and Rocket (Terry Notary), they encounter a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller) and a chimpanzee named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who directs them to the facility on the border, operated by McCullough. Once they arrive there, Caesar sees his apes captured and used for slave labor to build a wall to protect his army (I won’t make any Trump jokes, I promise). This immediately becomes the battle of wits.

It’s no surprise that the original Planet of the Apes gained controversy for its allegory of American slavery and the racial tensions of the Civil Rights Movement. To be fair, we still live in a world where racial tensions are the norm. A different race will be discriminated anywhere at any time.  In the case of the Planet of the Apes movies, the irony is that the humans are the least dominant species. War, the ninth film in the franchise, is relevant to the Trmup era (again, no jokes). Reeves directs this social sci-fi movie to his full advantage with the themes of supremacy and prejudice. It asks the question: What does the future hold if the apes are the most dominant species, in terms of evolution?

In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert,[1] Andy Serkis explained that he had no idea he would return to motion capture after doing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. “This is the end of type casting as we know it,” he said. “Anyone can play anything.”

I can’t agree with him more. Motion capture is certainly the future of film acting. And hopefully for the better. Serkis has fully embraced the instinct of Caesar. Take note on how grayer and wiser he’s getting in each of these movies. In War, we finally get to see the darker side of this brilliant character. We see him evolve from a pet to a leader through compassion. Now—he is getting revenge on losing something so dear to him. With numerous references to the Bible and films of the past, he can be looked at as a Clint Eastwood-type protagonist (one of the film’s biggest inspirations is The Outlaw Josey Wales). He also resembles the biblical Moses.

When we finally get our first glimpse of Col. McCullough, we see a spine-tingling image of him wearing black war paint on his face (one of the references to Apocalypse Now). Later on, we learn more about his motivation and his ties with the Simian virus. With Caesar in his office, he explains how he made the ultimate sacrifice to kill those infected with the virus, which makes humans have the inability to talk. . “The irony is we created you,” says the Colonel. “And nature has been punishing us ever since…no matter what you say, eventually you’d replace us. That’s the law of nature.” From watching the original movies, this makes perfect sense about the humans living on this particular Earth now!

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Comparing behind-the-scenes to the final product. (Source: IMDb)

Zahn, a newcomer to the franchise, provides the film’s comic relief. His Bad Ape is one of the franchise’s most fascinating supporting characters. Originally from the Sierra Zoo, he becomes exposed to the virus and has been hiding out in the snowy mountaintop for years. He becomes their guide leading them to the facility on the border. This results in a funny scene where they make their way through a tunnel.

The beginning and the end of War features two big action set pieces that are as nerve-wracking as they are breathtaking. With the gritty nature going on, what carries the movie through is the simple moments of poignancy. Miller’s Nova represents the innocence during the dark times. Her moments with Maurice are so sweet I want to choke up as much as the rest of the movie. Her moment of grace, however, is during one powerful scene where she sneaks into the facility. She sees Caesar tired and hungry from working on the wall. What does she do? She gives him food and water before escaping from the army. We see one of the apes holding two fists together side-by-side; indicating that “apes together are strong.” The other apes later repeat the act. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score, it’s impossible not to get teary-eyed.

(As much as I loved Patrick Doyle’s score in Rise, his doesn’t quite capture the gritty nature and simple poignancy of Giacchino’s score in this movie and in Dawn.)

War for the Planet of the Apes may be the end of the trilogy, but the franchise is most certainly not over, according to Matt Reeves. “The idea would never be to remake the ’68 film,” said Reeves in a 2014 interview with JoBlo.[2] “But it would be sort of a re-telling of those events from a new perspective. And the events themselves would probably be a bit different since they will have grown out of these films.” I’m definitely looking forward to seeing exactly where the franchise will go.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64mWOoj68qo

[2] http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/exclusive-matt-reeves-talks-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-169

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2017 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down, two months to go.

Sometimes, I forget to talk about movies that came out this past month. Case in point, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott. This is the role that he was born to play! An aging Western icon with a stellar voice who comes to terms with his life once he is diagnosed with cancer. Starring alongside Laura Prepon (That ‘70s Show, Orange is the New Black) and Nick Offerman, it might sound clichéd, but I have a feeling this is going to be delightful.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what has yet to come this July.

July 7

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Source: IMP Awards

Spider-Man Homecoming – Spider-Man made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He might have been added in at the last minute, but he certainly deserved to be in it. It was a joy to watch an actual teenager—given Tom Holland was 19 at the time—tackle the web-slinging superhero that everyone knew and loved. Holland gave a much better performance than both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Fresh from giving a powerful performance in The Lost City of Z, Holland returns to play the title character in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s surprising to see Michael Keaton play the villain this time. I guess it takes a hero to become the villain. I’m pretty certain we’ll keep seeing different interpretations of Spider-Man for years to come. Bring it on!

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Source: IMP Awards

A Ghost Story – Believe it or not, this is perhaps my most anticipated movie of the entire summer. A Ghost Story is far from a horror movie. This is a drama about a man’s ghost (in a white sheet with two holes for eyes) exploring the afterlife after dying in a car crash. Director David Lowery—of the sluggish yet decent tribute to Terrence Malick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and the surprisingly exceptional Pete’s Dragon—reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints to make another hit at this year’s Sundance. I’m hoping A Ghost Story will find an audience. Every shot is like a painting in motion. Totally looking forward to it!

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Source: The Film Stage

City of Ghosts – This is a documentary following a group of Syrian journalists risking their lives to stand up against ISIS. Documentaries and journalism are two of my biggest interests. Seeing a preview of City of Ghosts opened my eyes. Hearing about journalists and soldiers getting killed in the Middle East (particularly by ISIS) is downright devastating. It’s fascinating to hear about the lives of people living across the ocean.

July 14

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Source: IMP Awards

War for the Planet of the Apes – Hell yeah! The new Planet of the Apes trilogy is about to come to an end. While the 1968 film is a timeless sci-fi classic with one of the most iconic twists in film history (so iconic that it’s on the DVD cover), I actually prefer the new films. Rise was a marvelous build-up. And Matt Reeves brought the franchise to another level with Dawn, which is my personal favorite in the franchise. In War, the apes begin their civil war with a group of soldiers led by a vicious Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The reason why I prefer the new films over the original is not just because of the gorgeous visuals and motion capture being brought. But—rather the emotional appeal. The sequels of the original films are often dry and downright silly. It’s time for Reeves to end the trilogy on a high note.

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Source: IMP Awards

Wish Upon – *sigh* Another horror movie with a dumb premise? Next!

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Source: IMP Awards

Lady Macbeth – Whenever you see Lady Macbeth as the title of your movie, you might expect a prequel, of a sort, to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This is anything but. One review described Lady Macbeth as: “Wuthering Heights, as if it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock” (not the exact quote, but you get the idea). Seeing the preview before Manchester by the Sea (twice), I saw something that might be tense.

July 21

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Source: IMP Awards

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan has directed some of the best films in existence—from The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. His last film, Interstellar, had the potential of being a wonderful space film, but faltered from a manipulative script and a syrupy final act. This time, Nolan goes back to the past to depict the Battle of Dunkirk, where 400,000 allied forces from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France are evacuated from the battle and are surrounded by the Germans. This movie doesn’t seem to follow the “war is hell” structure compared to most WWII films, which is a good thing. With a brilliant cast including Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and One Direction’s Harry Styles (quite unususal, but hopefully, he’ll give a surprisingly good performance) This seems to be more of an intense war thriller than anything.  Please don’t disappoint me again, Christopher Nolan.

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Source: IMP Awards

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (try saying the title three times fast) – Known for directing Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Lucy, Luc Besson adapts a graphic novel, originally published in France (his home country). While I’m not familiar with comics, it doesn’t change my mind that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks horrible although visually stunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it flops.

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Source: IMP Awards

Girls Trip – Yay…another black comedy. Moving on.

July 28

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Source: IMP Awards

The Emoji Movie – Another corporate sellout appealing to kids rather than adults? No, thank you.

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Source: IMP Awards

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron continues her repertoire starring in action movies in which she plays a badass. Atomic Blonde is no exception. Teaming up with James McAvoy, this seems to be some brutal fun.

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Source: IMP Awards

Menashe – In the orthodox Jewish community of New York City, a widow is struggling to live his life after the passing of his wife. Mostly told in Yiddish, Menashe seems to be fascinating sociological outlook of a least-known culture. While this is the first PG-rated film by A24, this movie seems to be more for adults than children (I guarantee they will be bored to death). I don’t know if I’ll see it, but it might be pretty good.

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Source: IMP Awards

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – The 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth brought forth some deep discussion about the climate change in our world. Al Gore is back to talk about how the Earth’s climate change has evolved since then. It might be okay, but I’m not entirely interested.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Atomic Blonde, City of Ghosts, Dunkirk, A Ghost Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

Least Anticipated: The Emoji Movie, Girls Trip, Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, Wish Upon,

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.