The final installment of the rebooted Planet of the Apes series is spectacular stuff, but also admirably grim and apocalyptic, as we side with the hominids as we do with the misunderstood X-Men and even George Romero’s hated zombies. And there aren’t many $150 million dollar American summer action blockbusters designed to make you feel guilty about being human.
It’s been 15 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the world has been decimated by the ‘simian flu’ introduced at the end of that film and already seen to be laying waste to the masses as we got into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The remaining military types in ‘The North’ (British Columbia?) are fighting the increasingly smart apes, as the uprising instigated by the late Koba (Toby Kebbell greenscreened for dream sequences) continues. Caesar (Andy Serkis FXed again), however, has become a pacifist and is trying to stop the violence and protect his family and friends, which are seen in tender, tight-knit family units and loyal groups in a way glaringly at odds with most of the horrible homo sapiens here.
After the forces of ‘The Colonel’ (Woody Harrelson) attack, Caesar sends the others away (including his surviving son Cornelius, so-named in a wink to the original pics), and he strikes out to take on the humans with a trio of his followers: chimp Rocket (Terry Notary), gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and kindly orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), who’s uneasy with Caesar’s thirst for vengeance. This beautifully-CGed quartet wind up teaming with sadly funny ‘Bad Ape’ (Steve Zahn) and a mute child nicely played by Amiah Miller, and soon they’re at the snowbound stronghold of Woody’s Colonel and his men (and yes, they are notably almost all men which, ahem, must mean something).
Pierre Boulle wrote the original Monkey Planet (a.k.a. La Planète Des Singes) in 1963 and foolishly thought it unfilmable, and he was surprised by the huge success of the whole Apes thing, especially as he thought it too dark for Hollywood – and even now you could well be thinking the same thing. The jaundiced end-of-the-‘60s atmosphere of the original series has been replaced, however, by a more environmental edge which never quite feels shrill, as well as an anti-American bent (note the use of The Star-Spangled Banner and lots of talk of borders) and, by way of Harrelson’s formidable performance, a caustic condemnation of the evils of power, ego and revenge.
And is it too late to ask if we can’t all just get along?
Rated M. War For The Planet Of The Apes is in cinemas now