It’s confession time again: I haven’t seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies before or since Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I know. I’m sorry. I don’t even have a good excuse. I got. Um. sidetracked? Last I saw, David Hewlett’s ass of a character was just about to start the spread of the Simian flu around the world and things have moved on since then, quite considerably.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment of the reboot series and the sequel to 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
So far, the critics appear pleased with War for the Planet of the Apes. The Telegraph called it “a soulful, mesmerizing spectacle worthy of David Lean”. High praise indeed. The Guardian deemed it “absorbing”, while Digital Spy went for “brave and brutal”. Variety, on the other hand, was less than thrilled that the film, and indeed the rest of the reboot, came down on the side of the apes, complaining that the human characters were reduced to “crass two-dimensional stereotypes”.
Not everyone, they argued, “is eager to cheer the annihilation of their own species — or to be told that we’ve squandered our time here on earth and that it’s time to turn the planet over to a more evolved species”, an interesting critique that touches on the question of the purpose of film or, perhaps more accurately, the purpose of the summer blockbuster.
The Telegraph praised the choice to throw in with the Apes, opining that it gave the movie a “thrillingly disarming and destabilizing edge”. Casting humans as the bad guys is becoming increasingly popular in such movies: witness Kong: Skull Island, where only the most cold hearted could have sided against the supersized ape. It no longer seems quite as edgy and political as it might once have done, simply because it is beginning to be the norm and therefore has lost some of its potential to shock.
Film is not always meant to be pure entertainment. It is there to mirror our world back to us, to make us think, to take us outside of our minds and help us to see the world from another point of view. Our reactions to a specific film or a director’s specific choices within a film can tell us more about ourselves than about either the film or the director. Just because you don’t like the things that a film tells you, that does not make it a bad film. Take note, Variety.
Are you excited to see War for the Planet of the Apes?