Thursday, August 9, 2018

War for the Planet of the Apes through a Kid’s Eyes

Once again, a review for a franchise that insists on only releasing films when I’m vacationing off the continent is delayed.  The delay extended because my daughter, who laughed at Carpenter’s The Thing and the original Poltergeist  didn’t want to watch “the scary monkeys.”

Unpredictability- the never ending gift of parenthood.

This series started by accepting the fact all of the fans of the franchise have been rooting for the apes all along.  That builds excessively in this film. 

With the single exception of the little girl, all the humans we meet in this outing are lacking in any redeeming qualities.  Woody Harrelson gives a turn as a truly despicable villain.

My daughter didn't have many notable comments because she was completely engrossed and stared unflinching most of the story, uttering only the occasional emotion filled wordless exclamation. 

Again, since the apes are shown to be in the right, and far more compassionate and likeable than humans, or past ape version, while the narrative moves towards A planet of the apes, it may not be the classic planet of the apes.

Social commentary remains important to the franchise, however.  Marginalization of others, and betrayal are highlighted, but also the strength that comes from honor and loyalty.

The motion capture effects have continued to improve in quality.  They would be far better defined as “digital makeup” at this point than animation.  The actors are all clearly visible from within their performances.  The veterans were fantastic as usual, and Steve Zahn was a hysterical, tragic and heartwarming addition as Bad Ape.

This is a War for the planet, but not the obvious War.  There’s an external war between factions of humans, but its more the internal War that Caesar faces which drives the soul of the story.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough awesome battles, apes on horseback and explosions to keep it visually exciting. 

But there’s also the “humanity” of all the individuals, with conflicts, compromises and character growth building on all that has come before.  

Yeah, there is a bit of Apocalypse Now with “monkeys” going on, but in a good way on both sides of that statement.

In keeping with the “rules” of the franchise the key surprise statement has always been in English.  If that is the case, Maurice making only his second vocalization to name the little human girl he’s adopted would have to get it, both for the emotion and meaning it carries in story, and the call back to the original films.

Key Surprise Statement:


However, there are other forms of communication, and I think a more fitting one could be Nova’s use of sign language to join in with “Apes Together Strong” showing she and they have accepted her as one of the apes, in contrast to the separatist views of the humans.

The biggest surprise “vocalization,” was the lack of verbal expression by Woody Harrelson’s “The Colonel.”
When Ceasar reaches him for the final confrontation, he is broken and too intoxicated to stand, having succumbed to the new strain of the simian flu.  Harrelson communicates a great deal more through his eyes than most interpretations of that scene that I’ve read think is going on.

According to the Colonel, this new strain of the disease removes the last vestiges and hopes of humanity by taking away a person’s ability to speak and to reason, rendering them as mere beasts.

However, we see Nova throughout the film demonstrate, while she lacks verbal expression, she is clever, resourceful and able to communicate through gestures, expressions and the signs Maurice teaches her. The other infected humans shown also have no visible symptoms other than lack of speech.

I read the Colonel’s final expression not as a man who feels his intelligence slipping away, but rather as a completely broken man who’s intelligence remains after losing his speech, and who cannot wash away with all of his alcohol the fact that he needlessly separated himself and his followers from the last group of humans, and murdered both his men and his own son, because of a transformation into “beasts” that was never happening.

His silent expression spoke volumes.

The substantial quality of this franchise keeps growing.
Here’s hoping Andy Serkis follows in Roddy McDowall’s thumb bearing footprints and plays his own descendants for future installments.

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