'War for the Planet of the Apes': I read the news today, oh boy
Third time's the charm.
I managed to see both the previous installments of this movie series in theaters (Rise in 2011 and Dawn in 2014). Despite the fact that I went in intending to review these movies for Flayrah when both of them came out, I didn't.
The truth of the matter is that I got bored, and just couldn't be bothered to write anything.
So, I really should have reviewed those other two movies. But it helps that this is the first movie in the series I actually liked, though.
Rise and Dawn are not bad movies; they have a lot of positive qualities to them, but I never really liked them.
This review's lyrical headline comes from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life", and, yes, I'm making that a "thing"..
I believe this reticence to review is for the same reason there are not a lot of furries running around with ape fursonas. In fact, I just searched "apes" on e621, and got a wall of furry art decidedly not featuring apes of any kind. Apparently, there is a furry artist tagged as "apes" who, despite the name, apparently does not draw apes. Subtracting the plural form, I searched "ape", which got 300 results; for comparison, "cross_fox", a variant of one species of fox, gets 122 results, almost half of all ape species combined, including gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and multiple species of gibbons. I am following my normal policy of not actually linking to e621 due to it's insanely NSFW nature, but the experiment is easy to replicate for yourself.
My point is, with apologies to the few furries who actually do like apes, furries aren't the biggest ape fans. I'd say it's because, after all, humans are a type of ape. If we're going to go to the trouble of anthropomorphizing an animal, why start with with what is, taxonomically speaking, basically the same thing already. They're not exotic enough to be really interesting to the usual furry aesthetic.
But that doesn't mean they aren't anthropomorphic animals; they are. And the three newest Planet of the Apes movies are a pretty standard furry story, if only featuring animals furries don't normally deal in. In fact, the Planet of the Apes movies, in all iterations, are the golden standard of "humanity replaced by evolved species of animal" story outside the fandom.
If this is your first Planet of the Apes movie, that's okay. You'll do fine. The original Planet of the Apes is basically just an inspiration at this point. The original series of movies featured an alternative origin story which involved time travel (and is a classic example of the bootstrap paradox). And we basically don't talk about the Tim Burton one.
The opening of War features a textual quick rundown in what happened in the last two modern movies, and the movie doesn't overly rely on you remembering that chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary) and orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) were imprisoned in the same San Francisco ape "sanctuary" as series protagonist Caesar (Andy Serkis) back in 2011, for instance. It's there if you remember, but it won't ruin the movie if you don't.
The opening shot is interesting, it features obvious homages to Vietnam War movies, and actually begins the movie subjectively with a group of human soldiers about to attack a group of apes. After this opening, the movie is always on Caesar's side, but he is introduced very much as a mysterious figure. The plot really kicks off when Caesar's family is killed in what amounts to a foiled assassination attempt. Caesar vows revenge on the man who killed his family, the Colonel (Woody Harrelson). He sends his tribe of apes to find a new home, while he and a small band of apes (including Rocket, Maurice and gorilla Luca, played by Michael Adamthwaite) go after the Colonel. After a series of misadventures, in which they pick up an orphaned human eventually christened Nova (Amiah Miller) and a lone chimp not part of the tribe known only as Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), they find that the Colonel has actually captured Caesar's tribe and is basically holding them in an ape concentration camp. So, the Vietnam war movie morphs into a WWII escape movie.
The movie does dose itself with allusions, plot devices, and clichés aplenty. Caesar gets the Jesus treatment applied liberally, with a little Moses added in for flavor. And did I mention that little orphan Nova is also mute?
However, I'm a bit inclined to give this a pass because the movie features very little dialogue, by necessity. Caesar is one of two apes who speaks regularly. Others use sign language to communicate, though Bad Ape can speak and never learned sign language, making him ironically deaf to most of the other apes. Seeing how this movie features war and escape plots, there are also a lot of scenes where talking, even if the characters were capable, would be a bad idea. So, on one hand the plot can be a bit stereotypical, but on the other hand there is a lot less of characters giving out exposition via dialog.
Oh, and that cliché about the mute orphan? There's actually a reason for that. Seems like the original virus that both turned apes intelligent and killed most of humanity had mutated. It's slightly less virulent now, but it renders its human victims mute. So Nova doesn't follow the cliché to the letter and "poignantly" find her voice at some "emotional" moment. The movie makes it clear she has lost the ability to talk permanently. It also makes it clear that this does not mean she has lost her— well, I was going to say humanity there, but as we've already discussed: humans and apes; what's the difference?
Oh, and one more thing. I don't know if the executives or whatever will leave it alone, but the movie ends. It feels like this story is over, and how often do you get that in this franchise driven cinematic universe?