By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
I have been waiting for this film to come out, maybe since seeing the first film in this franchise, “Planet of the Apes,” back as a young teen in 1968. Well, I can’t say that back then I was thinking to myself just how far this film series could go. But it’s nice to see the progress of this American science fiction media franchise, which consists of films, books, television series, comics, and other media about a world in which humans and intelligent apes clash for control.
With “Planet of the Apes” starring Roddy McDowall and Charle- ston Heston, I remember marveling at the fact that the apes were pretending to be human. Fast forward nearly 50 years, and I declare that it seems the apes are more human than the humans. This is thanks to the head ape Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, and a technology known as WETA digital, the innovation that turns the human actors into apes digitally.
In “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the third and final chapter of the trilogy that began in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar, played by Serkis, and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson. Caesar is the uber smart monkey who advanced from part of a pet project in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to a respected leader in the 2014 “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
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.
There are twists in this movie and many throwbacks to the original film, with characters such as Cornelius and Nova popping up for appearances in different forms. Nova is a sweet, innocent blonde girl. After the Simian Flu or virus that first erupted in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and backfired as a cure for Alzheimer’s and made the apes super smart and human-like, it takes on another form. This time it affects the speech and intellect of some humans, and as a result, Nova and others in this latest film cannot speak. She has been left behind in the forest, and Caesar and her crew find her and Maurice can’t stand to leave her behind. This struck my militant mind as another instance of a white woman, or girl in this case, interfering with a well thought out plan. I figured it could only serve to hinder the ape population.
An Ape named “Bad Ape” is a likeable character, because he is so afraid of the humans. However he is an elder ape and as most elders is full of wisdom and proves valuable in the quest to overtake them. He wears a blue vest, and there had been some slight rumblings on Black Twitter, because a popular activist wears a trademark blue vest, as well. But Whoopi Goldberg explained the origins of the blue vests with the apes, which started back in the 1968 original. There are some themes in this film or franchise that could be close to what’s going on in society. Some folks think that the clash between the predominant human culture and the apes could be a nod to the civil unrest that’s going on between whites and Blacks.
Indeed, it is weird to watch the apes “dap” one another or give what I say are fist bumps, as well. Whether “War for the Planet of the Apes” is representative of white vs. Black societies is up for interpretation. I do know that it’s a great film to watch, and if the unity displayed among the ape population is to be copied within our culture, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The film is playing everywhere.