Movie Review: War for The Planet of The Apes

The only reason I went to see this movie was because Dunkirk was showing much later last Saturday night. Many times I don’t really think about a movie’s rating and reviews before watching it in the theater. Be it romantic comedy, superheroes, or thriller suspense movies, as long as I’m drawn to the actors I would very much go, see, and judge for myself. I had expected War for The Planet of The Apes (WFTPOTA) to be a laid back movie, packed with superb and breath-taking actions only. Boy, how could I be so wrong? Fifteen minutes into the movie and I thought, oh crap, it’s mostly a silent film, something I always find distasteful because I like listening to people’s voice and how their emotions are conveyed through it. And more to that, WFTPOTA made me think and contemplate when I just wanted to relax and chew my popcorn.

Caesar, the leader of the apes in this movie, could speak English and so could some of his apes companions/enemies, while the other apes used sign language to communicate with each other and with Caesar. Two subtitles (apes language to English and English to Bahasa Indonesia) were present around seventy percents of the movie. The sentences presented were simple, leaving me to wonder whether these proclaimed intelligent apes were actually intelligent. I watched Rise of The Planet of The Apes (2011) simply because James Franco was starring in it. It was a good enough action movie, not forcing me to think much. I didn’t watch the second installment, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes (2014), and it’s a contributing factor why I felt this movie was difficult to understand without seeing the previous installments.

The number of apes was increasing, they became smarter than humans, they’re wiping off the existent human beings by infecting virus which weakened people, and at the end they could take over the earth so a war needed to be set against them. So what? Caesar didn’t seem to lead that many of apes, and they didn’t seem to occupy earth as much as they’re suggested to. Even the scenes in the soldier camp from the middle to the end of the movie showed that the number of apes was less than the number of the soldiers. The conflict began when a bunch of soldiers were in the hunt for Caesar and came face to face with him and his troop. Caesar spared the lives of the surviving soldiers and by that he sent a message to the Colonel that he wanted no war between the apes and the humans. Like typical human beings, the surviving soldier forgot that he was once saved and joined the killing spree for the apes as he, the Colonel, and many more soldiers invaded the place where the apes lived. Caesar’s wife and son were killed by the Colonel, making Caesar vow to take revenge. Winter, his supposedly trusted aide, betrayed the apes and went to the soldiers’ side. There went Caesar with three of his friends to find the Colonel and kill him; after he sent every ape he led to the dessert to find a new home.

On their way, they encountered a mute human girl who became abandoned because Caesar killed her (supposedly) father. The girl joined their adventure and so would an ape they met on their way to the soldier camp. This ape, calling himself “Bad Ape”, ran away from the zoo and apparently could speak English (hooray!). One of Caesar’s companions was killed when they were spying the soldier camp they’re heading to. Caesar was captured and he, along with other apes, was forced to work in the camp without food and water. When Caesar arrived, the apes were upset with him. If only he hadn’t left them, they wouldn’t have been captured by the soldiers. That disappointment was written all over their ape faces. But when Caesar defended an ape that was too weak and was still forced to work, the whole apes turned to support him. Caesar was beaten but he got to get food and water for the apes. The apes, being grateful and all, made him their leader once again. During his direct encounter with the Colonel, Caesar got to understand the reason why the Colonel was having a vengeance against the apes.

The soldier camp, the Colonel, the flag, the morning salutation were unmistakably inspired by a similar atmosphere set in the World War II (1939 – 1945), especially during Nazi infiltration in west European countries to annihilate the Jews. It’s not difficult to see the red lines: the Colonel was Hitler, his soldiers were Nazi soldiers, and the apes with their said growing intelligence were the Jews who were forced to work to the soldiers’ benefit until they’re not useful anymore and needed to be killed. Caesar here became a symbol of hope, of a wishful thinking of how different things might have become if there had been such leader with the Jews. The story was ending with an invasion by soldiers from the north who disagreed with the Colonel’s ambition to annihilate the apes. Those soldiers bore a significant resemblance with the Allies troops, also from the WW II. The difference between the Allies and these soldiers was probably they didn’t seem to care much about the wellbeing of the apes while they dropped bombs and shot guns at the Colonel’s men.

Caesar’s choice to go on his rampage hunting the Colonel (even in his small group) was exactly the same with the Colonel’s choice to go on a rampage hunting the apes. Caesar talked about having mercy regarding the killing of his wife and son, but he forgot that he didn’t have mercy himself when he killed the Colonel’s son. It’s typical humans, and apes, to demand from others something we don’t demand from ourselves, to forget that we once did what we now condemn other people to do. Many aspects of this movie is about taking a look in the mirror about what kind of personalities we claim to have, what we aim to achieve, and what we insist others to have. The story line was simple, the depicted scenery from rain forest to snowy ground to dessert was beautiful, and the ending was poetic enough with Caesar dying because of a wound. The scene changing was smooth and I couldn’t think of any scene cut to make the movie shorter. 

This movie lasted for almost 2.5 hours, and as much as it made me think, it was depressing enough for me.

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