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'War for the Planet of the Apes': I read the news today, oh boy

Edited by Sonious
Your rating: None Average: 3.1 (16 votes)

warfortheplanetoftheapes.jpgThird 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?


Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

I was going to say, "See my review of the 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' novels on Dogpatch Press," but it's still in DP's to-be-posted queue. It should be online soon. The 'War for the Planet of the Apes' novels are still in my to-be-read stack.

I do consider the 'Planet of the Apes' books -- the novelizations of the movie scripts and the authorized original novels -- to be furry literature.

The three latest Planet movies – Rise (2011), Dawn (2014), and War (2017) -- are designed as a single trilogy, and their paperback novels & novelizations are all controlled by Titan Books in London. What's more, Titan has gotten the rights to all the previous authorized novelizations – ‘Beneath’, ‘Escape’ etc. – from 1970 to 2001, and is republishing them as a four-volume “Planet of the Apes Omnibus” series. The first two are already out, and the next two are scheduled for this September and February 2018.

The early Planet paperback novelizations were written by several s-f authors towards the beginning of their careers; Jerry Pournelle, David Gerrold, William Rotsler, etc. “Omnibus” vol. 3 includes the almost-impossible-to-find “Lord of the Apes” by George Alec Effinger. Effinger got the job of novelizing the 1974-1975 “Planet of the Apes” TV series scripts for Award Books, a minor paperback publisher. He covered the TV episodes #1 to #9 in the first three books, then #10 to #12 in “Lord of the Apes” in September 1975. It was published, and Award Books had just begun to ship it out when the company declared bankruptcy. Most of the copies were unshipped and destroyed, but a few copies made it into the bookstores, so it became a cheap but almost impossible-to-get rarity. Now Titan Books has (or will in September) made it available again.

“Omnibus” vol. 4 will include the three ‘Return to the Planet of the Apes’ TV script novelizations by “William Arrow” – William Rotsler & Donald J. Pfeil. Bill Rotsler told me (we were both LASFS members) that he and Don Pfeil had gotten the job of novelizing the scripts of the cartoon TV series, animated by Depatie-Freleng. The TV series had been rushed into production so fast that its writers were given old ‘Rawhide’ scripts and told to rewrite them into ‘Return’ scripts. Rotsler & Pfeil were told to pick a single pseudonym for both of them, so they created “William Arrow”, the William from William Rotsler and the Arrow from Pfeil translated into English. They were supposed to alternate with Rotsler writing books #1 and #3 (scripts #1-#3 and #7-#9) and Pfeil writing books #2 and #4, but only books #1 to #3 were published – they were told to not to bother finishing #4 because the publisher (Ballantine) was cancelling the series due to poor sales.

I was preparing my annotated “An Anthropomorphic Bibliography” in 1994, and I couldn’t find the third ‘Return’ book anywhere. Bill Rotsler promised to loan me his file copy at the next week’s LASFS meeting, but we were told that he had just been rushed to a hospital for emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery. As soon as he got out, he phoned me and said that if I needed the book anytime soon, I’d have to come to his house to get it. He was in bed, and said that he’d been so cut & stitched from the surgery that he looked like a young Dr. Frankenstein’s earliest homework assignment.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

It's kind of a shame simians aren't used more in furry art and especially furry literature, given how prominently they're featured in mythology and fiction, especially in mainstream fiction. It's for a good reason, and the reason is, like the article points out, they contrast very well with both "furry" style anthros and humans. I think furries just aren't quite sure where they fit in the paradigm or don't really know what to do with them. But the answers are basically right there in a lot of the entertainment many of them grew up with. Star Fox, Jungle Book, Lion King and Donkey Kong Country all make very good use of simians and I couldn't picture their particular roles and mannerisms being portrayed by humans or by any other species as effectively. Plus they can make a good substitute for humans in roles where you kinda want to put humans, but don't think humans even coexisting with anthros is realistic (or might even be problematic - and yes, I mean in the way some find Zootopia's ham-fisted allegory for racism problematic).

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

I've loved the Apes film in this trilogy thus far and War is no exception. To me this is a major Furry event in the way Zootopia was the year before. It's unfortunate simians do not elicit an enthusiastic response in our fandom as most any other creature. I had briefly considered a gorilla for my fursona before settling on a crow, because I wanted to be represented by an animal that is associated with black in color (to reflect my love of ink art).

I will say that the marketing has been misleading, particularly with the titling of this film and especially the movie poster which would lead one to believe a much grander-scale battle was about to commence. The first film felt more like a "Dawn", the second film the "War", and this third one should have been titled as "Rise".

Friends of mine who saw the film summarized it to simply "boring", but members of the audience I saw it with (in both instances I saw this film) where clapping at key moments during the finale and were endeared to Bad Ape. Again, I loved the film despite some of the religious-imagery tropes and a convenient plot decision to save our protagonists from the human predicament (but was thrilling nevertheless). This movie can feel slow, yet I was never bored.

And how convincing is the CG? Maurice (the orangutan), Bad Ape and the gorilla characters looked creepily realistic!

Can't end without mentioning the exceptional score by Michael Giacchino. He weaves inspiration from the 1968 original film score into his own, and is one of the best works I've heard from him yet (topping his work for both Zootopia and Inside Out).

This movie might be a top 10 contender for the year.

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

One thing I noticed in this movie out of the other two is that this is the first one where shots felt like makeup work rather than CG; I don't think they were, but this is a compliment, because even really good CG (like the CG in this trilogy) still doesn't always feel ... physical in a way even crappy makeup can.

Probably the "boring" critique comes from the lack of (spoken) dialogue; it's not unlike a silent movie. Thematically, it works; the longest stretch of dialogue is Harrelson monologuing about how losing the ability to speak is akin to losing one's essential human quality. The character of Nova is a bit set up to show this view is wrong, both morally, and factually as well (Nova is already learning how to communicate via sign language fairly quickly into the movie).

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

As a long-time primate fan in the Furry Fandom, I have noted that the feelings shown by a seeming large majority of the fandom towards primates and anthro-primates goes beyond disinterest and falls into a downright surly attitude towards our close cousins. I've noted this at conventions and in on-line chat rooms -- furry fans tend to genuinely dislike primates and they're not shy about saying so. Why? I have been trying to figure that out for some time, without much luck.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

They are too close to the enemy, as demonstrated by this film. :-|
Simians, anyway. Lemurs can be very cute!

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Are there any ring-tailed lemur fursuits? The excessively long tail would be a problem to make in a fursuit.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Yes. Remi and Jack Lemur for two. I captured some myself. In my experience fursuiters are willing to suffer for fashion.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

California-based artist Vance Kovacs has some cool concept art for this movie up on ArtStation that looks just great. Makes me wanna get the art book for the previous two films.

Kovacs also did concept illustration for the Jungle Book remake.

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