War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on July 21, 2017 @ tonymacklin.net.

When War for the Planet of the Apes was first released, I avoided it for at least three reasons. The previews made it seem brutal and vicious. Been there, done that.

It was two hours and 40 minutes in length, which meant there probably were 40 minutes of redundant, superfluous CGI violence. Been there, done that.

Most of all, it was against the human race, and got the audience to root for the apes against the humans. Been there, done that.

I don't need a movie to root against the human race. I share the vision of Jonathan Swift, who in a letter to Alexander Pope, on September 29, 1725, wrote the following. He said, "But principally I hate man and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas."

Almost 300 years later, it's a fairly solid doctrine to live by.

In the future, people will look back at our present contemporary society and say, "What the hell were these people thinking?"

Hypocrisy is our most enduring trait. May the future be less hypocritical.

Finally, I steeled myself and went to see War for the Planet of the Apes, with ear plugs and Xanax. I didn't need them.

War for the Planet of the Apes is quality entertainment. It transcended my expectations.

Of course, it has overkill at the end, and is ultimately very manipulative, but it is also evocative and compelling.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, the best of humanity isn't gone. It's just transferred to the Apes, many of whom are loyal, honorable, caring, and basically decent.

Although there are no decent human beings except a young girl (Amiah Miller), she kind of makes up for the whole human race. She is one impressive human being. She saves the Apes. She is more capable than Wonder Woman. She's a bit lucky, too, because she wanders about never harmed like an invisible angel.

She is named Nova by one of the Apes, because he gives her a license plate holder with the name Nova on it. For most of us she would just be named after a car; in the film, she is new - a fresh-faced Wonder Girl.

Many films depend on suspension of disbelief to climb onto their wavelength. Nova demands such a climb.

Other suspensions are easier. Director Matt Reeves creates evocative power with telling infusions from cinematographer Michale Seresin, composer Michael Giacchino, and editors William Hoy and Stan Salfas.

Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback contribute a screenplay that engages and has allusions to many other movies. Of course the main source is Apocalypse Now (1979). "Ape - Pocalypse" is written on the wall in a subterranean passageway. And a crucial character is a colonel based on Kurtz in Coppola's movie and Joseph Conrad's novel.

The screenwriters make other allusions, such as to The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and one might see westerns such as Ford's The Searchers (1956) and Stevens' Shane (1953) as possible influences.

Reeves gets memorable performances from his gifted cast, especially Woody Harrelson as the Colonel. Harrelson gives the apes' main villainous adversary a rich depth. He is cool and dangerous. Lethal but unpredictable.

The portrayers of the apes are highlighted by Andy Serkis as the indomitable Caesar and Steve Zahn as the fidgety Bad Ape.

Despite some lapses in subtlety, War for the Planet of the Apes makes the incredible mostly credible.

It makes suspension of disbelief possible.

May the Apes be with us.

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