A grand scale simian tale by Richard Jones

A look at War for the Planet of the Apes (M)

apesIT seems many decades ago that Charlton Heston appeared in the first Planet of the Apes movie, set on another planet and not on Earth.

And indeed it was, with the first in the franchise filmed in 1968.

The newest reboot locates the events on our planet as indeed the preceding two did as well.

But in Rise of the Planet of the Apes a catastrophe had fallen on humankind caused by the medical testing of a vaccine intended to cure Alzheimer’s disease.

When it leaked into the atmosphere the supposed cure created a race of super-intelligent apes. A few of them could talk including Caesar (Andy Serkis).

Now in director Matt Reeves’ movie he and his simian pals – a mix of gorillas, orang-utans, bonobos and chimpanzees, like Caesar – are hiding out in the redwood forests as soldiers close in.

The military men are the remnants of human civilisation as the mutated virus had spread to people and wiped out a large proportion of humankind.

But the apes are armed just like the soldiers and most of them survive before Caesar sets out to eradicate the enemy of his tribes.

He’s a megalomaniac Colonel (Woody Harrelson) with his own private army. Reeves and Harrelson re-work Marlon Brando’s memorable performance as renegade Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, set during the Vietnam War.

On the way to the showdown with the human army, Caesar and his small band have a few adventures of their own. They find three executed human soldiers in the snow and later come upon a derelict Army camp.

There they find a mute human girl (Amiah Miller) who is immediately befriended by Caesar’s lieutenant, orang-utan Maurice (Karin Konoval).

The girl rides on with Caesar’s band – they’re all accomplished horsemen – until they come across another deserted set of buildings.

There they discover a small ageing chimp (Steve Zaka). He’d escaped from a zoo and, like Caesar, is fluent in English.

Unlike all the others of the motley ape crew who converse in monkey language with their words linked up on the screen in sub-titles.

Eventually, of course, Caesar and his crew arrive at the Colonel’s camp. But only the leader goes into enemy territory, is eventually captured and faces the Colonel.

Caesar is put to work with hundreds of other ape prisoners building a massive brick and rock wall, to serve as a defensive bulwark.

The Colonel’s men are expecting the human army from the north to launch an assault any time.

After all, they’re a renegade outfit. While they wait the Colonel’s trusted henchman Preacher (Gabriel Chavarria) takes it upon himself to shadow Caesar.

He’s an expert with a cross bow, a weapon favoured by many of the Colonel’s outfit. The arrows are used frequently, presumably to conserve ammunition.

It’s when the human army from the north arrives that the warfare, the explosions and the helicopter gunship raids really warm up.

Meanwhile it’s up to Maurice, the smart ex-zoo chimp and the others in Caesar’s posse outside the camp to figure out ways to recue their imprisoned relatives. 

It’s not a short movie, running to 2 hours and 20 minutes. But if there’s another one in the series I think I’ll give it a miss.

So as my only forays into sci-fi film watching involve monkeys, large ones such as King Kong and intelligent ones such as Caesar in the Planet of the Apes series, maybe I’ve run my race with this particular genre.


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