Tag Archives: Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes

14 Jul

Since the CGI resurrection of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise (can we all agree to forget the ill-conceived 2001 Mark Wahlberg-Tim Burton version?), the films – “Rise” (2011) and “Dawn” (2014) – have been working their way slowly up to the events that frame the classic 1968 film penned by “Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling and starring Charleston Heston. With “War for the Planet of the Apes” we get more breadcrumbs leading from here to there.

The plot picks up two years after “Dawn” ended with Caesar (Andy Serkis, the action-capture actor who so viscerally brought Gollum to life in “The Lord of the Rings” films) and fellow simians holed up in the woods trying to find a peaceful foothold as man employs military might to hunt down and eradicate them. We learn too that the simian flu that has decimated humankind makes apes smarter while it mutes humans and dims their mental capacity. (There’s your first breadcrumb).

The script by director Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mark Bomback, who worked with Reeves on “Dawn,” adds some smart wrinkles with the apes trying to disengage from war, setting off to find an ape Eden out of human reach, while Caesar, having incurred deep personal loss, ventures off on a revenge mission. To stir the pot we get Woody Harrelson as a Col. Kurtz type – fittingly titled “The Colonel” – hellbent on preserving humankind via extreme methodologies and, as a result, coming into conflict with other military heads. Like Kurtz he’s gone off the reservation and has a legion of special force-trained believers to back his madness. He also has a few apes that have become turncoats, labeled “donkeys” and regarded slightly above slaves; only prisoner apes have it worse. Continue reading

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

17 Jul

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’: Primates can’t win when hawks lurk in their ranks


The one thing that always struck me about the “Planet of the Apes” franchise – old and new – is the obvious, but not often discussed, allegory for slavery in which the master becomes the slave fighting for freedom. Sure, you can take it as a straight-up sci-fi thriller, but most post-apocalyptic, post-civilization flicks are about man losing control and trying to regain that control or at least a safe foothold where the seeds of civilization can be nurtured back. It’s less intimidating when zombies rule the land, but when those once incarcerated and mistreated are freed and look for a little payback, the nightmare becomes palpable and pulls on our collective social guilt.

071414i Dawn of the Planet of the ApesMuch of this percolates up in the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the newest chapter in the series reboot that has swapped top-shelf makeup and costume craftsmanship for CGI wizardry and crash bang FX (the old-school costuming is still a wonderment, and more impressive than its computerized successor, especially given the test of time). It’s 10 years after the last episode that left Caesar (Andy Serkis, who as Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy elevated animation acting to an art form) and his ape posse living in the woods outside San Francisco. In those years a simian virus has wiped out most of the human population, but pockets persist, including one on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge in the burned-out bowels of the bay city. The humans wanting to get a dam flowing to get power back on infringe upon the apes’ territory (neither really knew the other existed) and so a rub for resources and rights ensues.

On both sides there’s hawks: Gary Oldman as the shoot-first Dreyfus, leader of the San Fran mob and Koba (Toby Kebbell), the ape scarred in human captivity, who wants a war at all costs and subverts Caesar’s efforts at diplomacy and peace. In the middle looms Malcolm (Jason Clarke, the clear-eyed water torturer in “Zero Dark Thirty”), an engineer, the other voice of reason and a lieutenant to Dreyfus. They’re all idealist, but all that they do is a match in fuel-soaked tinder.  Continue reading