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War For The Planet Of The Apes  : Time We Aped Them
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Friday, July 14, 2017
Science fiction adventure
Matt Reeves
Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval

Once in a rare while, a story with substantial characters comes along and the special effects make only a muted contribution to the narrative.


It’s also a departure from the usual when it’s not human-chomping dinosaurs or killer whales or wicked anacondas who must be hunted down. In this reversal of roles, the apes wear suits and need CG on the outside but the internals are fully human.  


A virus has blessed the apes with superior intelligence but it has also felled some humans in what they believed was simian flu.So the apes must be exterminated.


The apes, led by Caesar, want peaceful co-existence. When a battalion of armed men infiltrate the jungle to shoot them down, the apes suffer severe casualties but capture alive a few soldiers. Caesar shows diplomacy by sending them back unharmed, hoping the message that apes are not savages, will get delivered to their Colonel.


It doesn’t work. Caesar loses most of his family in a ruthless attack by the Colonel, setting off the ape leaderto avenge that brutality and find a safer home for his community.With a handful of loyal simians including Maurice the kind orangutan who won’t leave his side, Caesar discovers there are more apes in the world than he’d known about. And the hardened Colonel who wouldn’t spare any afflicted human, has put captive apes into a hard labour camp. Even baby apes have been caged.    


Having humanised the apes, writer-director Matt Reeves invests every popular trait in them. Caesar had to kill Koba, the rogue ape who’d gone on a revenge spree. But when Caesar seeks revenge on the colonel, there’s the question Maurice asks, has he turned into another Koba? There are deserters who’ve gone over to the human side and they’re derisively called donkeys. There’s cowardice, there’s courage, there’s a touch of the comic from a late-addition to the gang, there’s caring, there’s compassion. For instance, Maurice the orangutan won’t leave behind a little girl who can’t speak and she becomes a part of Caesar’s ape family. It’s more compassionate than what the Colonel did with his own son.


In the last few months, I’ve been observing that Hollywood is high on family. Therefore, family it is for Caesar and for the Colonel too who has his own vulnerable moments.


Andy Serkis as Caesar, Steve Zahn as newcomer Bad Ape and Karin Konoval as Maurice, indeed all the major apes, have a tough assignment. They amble around in suits but express themselves in human ways, especially Maurice with the soulful eyes. Woody Harrelson has it easier as the unfeeling colonel but it’s a job well done for all the actors.


After Rise and Dawn, War tops off the trilogy with substance, the emotions even turning maudlin and predictable. Like the rag doll the little girl carries around which has its expected role to play on the tear ducts.


Biblical references and dips into Nazi concentration camps make points on ecology, on leaving the jungles alone, on co-existence, hatred and war, all of which resonate with the current socio-political scenario.


For a film that scores on several levels, War For The Planet Of The Apes gets a 3.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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