Happy Turkey Day everybody. I hope everyone is having fun spending time with family and going into food comas. Today’s movie is the latest installment in the rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise. As soon as they announced the release date for this movie, I had it marked on my calendar to go see, as the first two installments were great. When the first trailer was released, that only whetted my appetite and made me even more impatient for the movie to come out. So let’s see how the adventures of Caesar and his tribe of intelligent apes plays out in the latest movie, War For The Planet Of The Apes.
The plot: 15 years after the rise of intelligent apes, and the subsequent devastation of mankind from the Simian Flu, Caesar and his tribe were trying to peacefully coexist with a nearby group of humans in San Francisco until Koba led a coup against Caesar and attacked the humans. Caesar had overthrown Koba and regained leadership of his tribe but the humans had contacted a military base up in the North and explained what had happened so Caesar was forced to go into hiding. Two years later, a military special forces unit called Alpha-Omega are in the woods in California and see an ape patrol and a fortified trench, which they believe is a sign that Caesar’s base is nearby. Along with the human soldiers, Alpha-Omega also has several captured apes that had followed Koba, which they call “donkeys” working for them. After getting into position, the soldiers take out two members of the ape patrol and blow up the trench, attacking the apes inside, but the surviving patrol member rides off on a horse and begins calling out for reinforcements, which arrive and begin launching a counter attack on the soldiers. As the soldiers are being killed, one of them, Preacher, radios to the Colonel to tell him what is happening just before he is captured. Preacher, along with 3 other soldiers and a gorilla named Red, are taken inside the structure, where Caesar approaches them and says that he did not start the war but killed the ape that did and only fights to defend other apes. When one of the soldiers points out they attacked Red, and Caesar says that Red was one of Koba’s followers and they were scared about what he might do to them so they chose to work for humans in order to spare their life. Red speaks and tells Caesar that he is not afraid of him but warns that Caesar should be afraid of the humans and Caesar orders an albino gorilla named Winter to take Red away. Caesar then ties the soldiers back to back onto a pair of horse and tells them to deliver a message to the Colonel, saying to leave the forest to the apes and there will be no more fighting. As the horses ride off, Maurice, Caesars orangutan friend and adviser, asks if he thinks they will deliver the message and Caesar says the soldiers themselves are the message, hoping that the Colonel will see that they don’t want to kill all of the humans. Later, Blue Eyes (Caesar’s son) and Rocket return to the camp and they head to the apes secret lair behind a waterfall. At a meeting, Rocket and Blue Eyes tells Caesar that they found a safe place for them to live out in the desert on the other side of the mountains. Winter wants to leave that night but Blue Eyes says that is impossible and Caesar agrees, saying Rocket and Blue Eyes made it because there were only two of them but they must find a safe way for all of the apes to make it out of the forest. That night, Caesar is laying in his nest staring at his wife Cornelia and his young son Cornelius when he notices men repelling down the waterfall. Telling Blue Eyes to stay and watch over his mother and brother, Caesar heads down to the lower levels, where he encounters a gorilla sentry named Luca and tells him to gather the rest of the patrols and Rocket. They take out one of the soldiers but as Caesar listens to the radio chatter, he hears the Colonel say that “King Kong is dead” and order his men to pull back. Rushing back to his nest, Caesar finds Cornelia and Blue Eyes had been killed and the Colonel is preparing to ascend the rope and leave the lair. Caesar rushes out to attack the Colonel, grabbing onto the rope and climbing after him but the Colonel cuts the rope, causing Caesar to fall into the water below while he climbs to the top and escapes. When Caesar returns to the camp, Luca tells him that they can’t find Winter and believes he might have betrayed them to the soldiers. After finding that Cornelius had survived the Colonel’s attack, Caesar has the tribe prepared to move to the safe haven they hope to find in the desert but tells Maurice that he is not going, planning on going after the Colonel in the hopes that he will focus his attention on him, leaving the apes free to go. After leaving Cornelius with Lake, Blue Eyes’ girlfriend, Caesar rides off but is soon joined by Luca, Maurice, and Rocket, who all refuse to let him go alone. They make their way to an abandoned town, where Luca’s scouts have spotted fires burning constantly and believe it to be the soldier’s base. When they reach the town, they start searching the place and find a single soldier carrying a stack of wood for the fire. The soldier goes to put the wood down and grab a gun but Caesar kills him, and the apes wonder why he is alone. Hearing a noise from another cabin, they search it and discover a young girl cowering in the bed and Caesar, Luca, and Rocket go to search the other cabins. Maurice stays behind and hands the girl a ragdoll, who tries to thank him but she can’t speak. As they go to leave, Maurice says the girl will die if she is left alone, since they had killed her guardian, and despite Caesar saying they can’t take her with them, Maurice ignores him and brings the girl. Continuing on, they soon find the soldiers camp and spot Winter serving as one of their donkeys. Sneaking into the camp that night, Caesar, Luca, and Rocket confront Winter when he is alone in a tent washing dishes and ask where the Colonel is. Winter says he went to the border to meet with some soldiers coming down from the North, saying the other donkeys said that they are coming to finish off the apes. When the silhouettes of some guards are seen outside the tent, Winter starts to cry out to alert the soldiers but Caesar and the others quickly restrain him to keep him from making a sound but during the course of the struggle, Caesar accidentally smothers Winter and kills him. Returning to their camp for the night, they try to figure out their next move but Caesar sees the image of Koba taunting him for killing Winter and Caesar worries his quest for vengeance might be turning him like Koba. The next morning, the soldiers leave to meet up with the Colonel and the apes follow them but as it starts snowing, they hear gunshots and quickly take cover only to notice they are not the ones being fired upon and wonder who the soldiers are shooting at. Advancing cautiously, they find three bodies lying in the snow and as Caesar pulls back to hood on one of the bodies, he discovers they are human. One of the men is still alive and when Caesar asks what happened, the man is only able to croak out noises, and Caesar and Maurice realize the men were mute like the little girl Maurice is caring for. Caesar puts the man out of his misery and then the four apes climb up a nearby tower to try and figure out where the soldiers went, leaving the little girl sitting on Maurice’s horse. Suddenly, a hooded figure makes his way over to the horses and starts examining the saddle bags of the closest one. When Luca spots the stranger and roars out, the stranger jumps on the horse and rides off, with Caesar and the others leaping down and giving pursuit. The eventually catch up to the stranger, who is revealed to be an intelligent chimpanzee named “Bad Ape”, and has learned to speak by listening to humans. Bad Ape tells them that he came from the Sierra Zoo and is the only one to survive when the humans attempted to kill all of them in the zoo. Bad Ape brings them some preserved food to eat and when Caesar sees it is from a Border Quarantine Facility, he asks Bad Ape about it. Bad Ape explains it was a “human zoo” where all the humans were sick but they are all dead now and when Caesar asks if he will take them there, Bad Ape refuses, saying it is snowing now and they should stay there and rest for the night. As they rest for the night, Bad Ape and Caesar talk for a while, with Bad Ape asking Caesar about the girl that is travelling with them, and as they discuss how they both lost children, Bad Ape agrees to take them to the facility. When they reach the facility, Caesar and Luca go closer to get a better look at the facility but they are attacked by a patrol and Rocket helps them kill the patrol but Luca is stabbed in the gut by a bayonet. Caesar and Rocket carry Luca back to their camp, where they all mourn his death, including the girl, and Maurice says they should leave and meet up with the rest of their tribe but Caesar blames himself for Luca’s death and tells the others to leave while he goes on alone. Heading to a nearby cliff to observe the camp, Caesar finds that there are hundreds of captured apes inside the facility and several apes tied up onto X-shaped crucifixes close to him. Hearing one of the apes groan in pain, Caesar releases him and recognizes him as an ape from his tribe and asks what happened. The ape tells him they were ambushed and taken their to build something but dies before he can say anything further and Caesar ends up being knocked out by an approaching patrol. When Caesar comes too, he finds the Colonel taunting him and asking him how he found this place. Caesar is taken out into the courtyard and sees Cornelius calling out to him from a pen with some other young apes. Caesar is thrown into another cage, where the ape there shun him, and when he sees Lake, she says to forgive them as they have been through much. The next day, Caesar and the apes are taken from the cages and are forced to work on building a wall, and Caesar questions why the Colonel needs one. When a weakened orangutan causes an accident, the Colonel has Red start whipping him in punishment but Caesar yells at him to leave him alone. The other apes, seeing Caesar standing up for them, start to cheer for Caesar so the Colonel has Red whip Caesar instead. The Colonel then tells Caesar to order the other apes to get back to work and when Caesar refuses, demanding that the Colonel give the apes food and water, the Colonel puts the gun to Caesar’s head and starts counting down. Before he reaches “1”, Lake picks up a boulder and tells the other apes to get back to work and as they continue working, the Colonel has Red tie Caesar onto a crucifix. On a cliff overlooking the camp, Maurice, Rocket, Bad Ape, and the girl see what is happening and wonder how they can rescue Caesar and the others. That night, Caesar is brought before the Colonel, who threatens to start slaughtering the apes if he disrupts the work again. Caesar tells the Colonel again that the apes need food and water, but the Colonel says they will get it after they finish building the wall. Caesar tells the Colonel he knows the soldiers are not coming to join him, but to stop him, and the Colonel is impressed by Caesar’s intelligence and then tells him that the simian flu, which all of the surviving humans still carry in them, has begun to mutate and begin devolving humans into a more primitive state. The first to suffer from it was the Colonel’s own son, and as the others in his unit begin to fall victim, the Colonel realized that he had to stop the virus from spreading or else all of humanity would essentially be wiped from existence. The Colonel then began to execute anyone infected, including his son, but one of the infected had managed to escape and make his way North to the survivors up there, which is why they find themselves in the situation they are in now. Caesar is tied back onto the crucifix but witnesses the donkeys bringing food and water for all of the apes, however Red throws a bucket of water onto Caesar’s head, leaving him to freeze to death. Maurice and the others see what is happening and want to help but Bad Ape doesn’t want to go into the facility. As they are forced to hide from a patrol, Bad Ape falls discovers a tunnel and they begin exploring it. Maurice and Rocket figure it was used by the sick humans to escape the facility and realize it leads directly under the facility. Meanwhile, the girl heads down another tunnel and climbs up the ladder, where she Caesar tied to the crucifix and starts moving towards him while Bad Ape convinces her to come back. As night falls, Caesar again hallucinates that Koba is taunting him for getting the apes killed as The Colonel has Red cut Caesar down and put him in a cage, saying if he survives the night he will be put back to work. Nova sneaks into the camp and gives Caesar her ragdoll, then brings a bucket of water for him to drink out of. When the other apes call out to her, she heads over there and the apes give her food to give to Caesar. As Caesar stares at the food, he sees Lake and the other apes make the sign that they are stronger together, which the girl mimics. Seeing some guards approaching, Caesar tells the girl to hide but as they get closer, he fears she will be found. Outside, Maurice, Rocket, and Bad Ape sees this and realize they will kill the girl if they find her so Rocket heads to the facility and allows himself to be captured, then starts a fight with Red, providing a distraction that allows her to escape. After the Colonel breaks up the fight and has Rocket placed in a cage, Rocket signs to Caesar that they have a plan to escape. The next day, the Colonel, Red, and Preacher approach Caesar’s cage and are surprised to see him still alive. The Colonel has Caesar taken to the quarry but before he can leave, the Colonel sees the ragdoll and asks how it got there but Caesar doesn’t answer. The apes count out the steps to the different holding pens and tell Caesar and he signs the information to Maurice, who is watching them from the cliff. Maurice hands the binoculars to the girl and then heads down into the tunnel with Bad Ape. As night falls, Red takes Caesar back to his cage and tells Caesar that the Colonel plans on killing all of the apes once the wall is finished and Caesar tells him he will be killed as well. The girl goes into the tunnel and tells Maurice that the apes are back in the cages and Maurice tells her that she is very brave. When the girl asks if she is an ape, Maurice looks at her and pulls at an emblem that Bad Ape had given her, telling her that she is Nova, bringing a smile to her face. Bad Ape digs through to the cage where the adult apes are being kept but Nova notices water coming from further down the tunnel and as Maurice examines it, he is forced to close the sewer hatch. Signing what is going on to Rocket and the others, Rocket tells Caesar that they can’t keep digging or else the tunnel will flood. Caesar says that they have to leave tonight or else they will be caught in the crossfire between the two armies and killed so they will have to rescue the children above ground. Rocket flings poop at a sentry, prompting him to enter the cage to kill him but Maurice tunnels up from the ground to grab the guard and drag him into the tunnel, then throws Rocket the keys and hands him his gun. Rocket frees Caesar and they both head into the children’s cage, where Caesar is reunited with Cornelius, and they then have the children climb along a wire above the cages and drop down into the adults cage. The apes then send the children through the tunnel, where Maurice, Nova, and Bad Ape lead them to safety, and then the adults follow. Caesar and Rocket are the last two to leave but Caesar tells Rocket to leave without him, saying that Maurice was right and he has become like Koba as he can’t let go of his hate for the Colonel. As Caesar makes his way to the Colonel’s barrack, the Northern army launches their attack on the facility. As the Colonel’s troops begin fighting back, Caesar enters the barrack only to find that the Colonel has fallen victim to the mutated virus and can no longer speak. Seeing Caesar holding his pistol, the Colonel grabs the barrel and places it against his head, begging Caesar to kill him but Caesar refuses and sets the gun down so the Colonel grabs it and kills himself. Back outside, the soldiers are still attacking the other army when some of them notice the apes trying to escape and begin firing on them. Seeing this, Red starts to feel bad about the slaughter of his own people and sees Caesar going to blow up the fuel tanks nearby but he is shot by Preacher. Red grabs a grenade launcher and uses it to kill Preacher but he is killed by a nearby soldier, who then begins firing on Caesar. Caesar manages to grab the grenades he had been carrying and blow up the fuel tanks, then barely manage to make it down into the tunnel. As the enemy soldiers swarm into the facility and finish off the rest of the soldiers, they begin cheering in victory but stop when they see Caesar standing up by some rocks. One of the soldiers goes to shoot Caesar, who stares at them then stares back up the mountain, and the soldiers turn as well to see that the explosions had caused an avalanche. As the avalanche makes it’s way down the mountain, the soldiers are swept away and killed while Caesar and the other apes (and Nova) manage to climb to safety in the trees. The apes then begin making their way through the desert to find a new home and eventually come across an oasis with a lake hidden inside a canyon. As the apes all head down to the lake but Caesar and Maurice stay behind. Caesar, having grown weak from his injuries, knows he is dying and tells Maurice not to worry, as the apes will be strong without him. Maurice tells Caesar that Cornelius will know who his father was and what he did for the apes. Caesar smiles and looks down at the apes, seeing Nova and Cornelius playing together, and then finally dies from his injuries as Maurice strokes his leg and weeps, alerting the other apes to Caesar’s passing.
War For The Planet Of The Apes met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “War for the Planet of the Apes combines breathtaking special effects and a powerful, poignant narrative to conclude this rebooted trilogy on a powerful — and truly blockbuster — note.” There were numerous allusions to the original series of movies in this movie, from the Colonel’s unit being called Alpha-Omega )the same name as the bombs that the cult worships), to Maurice naming the girl Nova (the same name as the slave that fell in love with Taylor), and Caesar naming his son Cornelius (just as Caesar named his son Cornelius in Battle For The Planet Of The Apes). While the movie was the most highly rated movie according to critics, it did not perform as well as the previous installment but was still a box office success, earning $490.6 million off of a $150 million budget.
Man, this may not be the last installment in the series (as a 4th movie is being considered), but this was definitely one of the most powerfully, emotional movies in the series. This was an incredible movie and if this is how the reboot ends, then it went out on an incredible high note. The acting was incredible, with Andy Serkis delivering an absolutely amazing performance as Caesar. Woody Harrelson was equally good as the Colonel and the interaction between the Colonel and Caesar was really good. Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Ty Olsson (Red), were also great in their roles, while Steve Zahn was pretty funny as Bad Ape. The story really was emotionally riveting, with Caesar constantly being haunted by Koba’s actions and worrying about his becoming just like him. The interaction with Maurice and Nova was also incredibly endearing, while Red’s conflict with Caesar and his eventual change of heart was also pretty pivotal and also helped to play a role in Caesar’s hallucinations regarding Koba. The final scene with Caesar and Maurice speaking, and Maurice actually vocalizing instead of signing, was incredibly emotional and appears to set up for the original Planet Of The Apes movie was incredible; especially the ending, where it seemed like Maurice was being primed for becoming the “Lawgiver”, the orangutan that passed down the history of how the apes rose to power and who has statues dedicated to him in the original movie. The special effects and motion capture effects were astounding and made the apes look incredibly realistic. I am serious, this is a fantastic movie and definitely worth watching.
Rating: 5 out of 5