July 19th 2017
Today I watched War For The Planet Of The Apes. It was excellent, but there was a lot of reading involved, right from the beginning.
The first shot has some proper corny title cards/text overlayed that explain the plot of the first two films. I didn’t really think that was necessary because who would go into the third film of a trilogy without having seen the first two films? That seemed a bit odd to me. But, the on-screen text set the tone for the rest of the film.
Naturally, there’s a lot of apes in War For The Planet Of The Apes, and only like 2 or 3 or 4 apes can speak English, the rest of them communicate through sign language, so there’s a lot of subtitles to read. The filmmakers combat the need for too many subtitles with cleverly spaced scenes, and newly introduced characters, like this little guy whose name we never learn (I think).
Introducing that character was a masterstroke, because he can speak English, which provides the film with enough dialogue to keep it tiding over between subtitles, and his simple, haphazard nature also brought a much-needed level of humour to an otherwise stoic and, in some parts, depressing film.
There’s a very obvious, very serious theme that powers the third act of the film, and it’s a theme obvious from the name of the film.
(Spoilers) There are striking similarities between the work camp in which the apes become enslaved, and the concentration camps of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Throughout the film you’re faced with this internal battle over whether you as an audience member should side with the apes or the humans. The humans are the villains here, there’s no denying that, but the apes are vicious and you’re made to feel protective of your own species.
These humans, and Woody Harrelson in particular, punish the apes, force them to work to build a wall, torture them, and deprive them of food and water. Because the film is shown through the eyes of the apes rather than the humans, you end up wanting the apes to win, and it gets quite emotional when some of them die.
The apes show more humanity than the humans by caring for a little girl who has been stricken by a virus that is, I think, turning her into an ape. On second thought, that bit isn’t really explained too well, and everyone else who has the virus ends up dead, but the little girl is fine and well.
It’s a good film, and a great end to the trilogy. Following a non-human character throughout 8 or so hours of film would be tough if they didn’t humanise Caesar in the way that they did. Originally it’s quite jarring with the grunting and lack of dialogue, but by the end you kind of forget that he’s an ape. Plus, the CGI rendering of the apes is so good that you kind of forget that he’s not even a real ape.
Historically, I’m not a fan of overly-CGI’d films, but with this one everything feels weirdly real.
Until tomorrow, I guess we’re all apes after all.