The trilogy based on the original “Planet of the Apes” movies comes to a climactic end with “War for the Planet of the Apes.”
Both of the previous movies (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) were great, and this one brings down the curtain on the pre-history of those movies that began in 1968.
The story so far is that Caesar (Andy Serkis), an ape with superior abilities, leads a community of apes that are trying to exist peacefully with humans.
Many of the humans died from a simian flu that came from the apes. As a result, there have been attacks upon the apes by humans wanting to rid the world of them.
Caesar does not advocate engaging the humans, but an ape named Koba (Toby Kebbell) led an uprising of violence against the humans.
Koba is now dead, but Caesar is haunted by Koba, who believed that the only way to achieve peace for the apes is to kill the humans.
As this chapter begins, a group of military special forces commanded by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is trying to find the base of the apes and to eliminate them, especially Caesar.
In one of their raids, the Colonel finds his way into Caesar’s home and kills both Caesar’s wife and son. This sets Caesar and the Colonel on a path of destruction.
Matt Reaves, the director and co-writer of the movie, tells his story very simply.
There are no cut scenes taking the action back and forth between Caesar and the Colonel. What we see is a linear telling of the story with it moving from one place to another. The focus begins with Caesar and stays with him throughout.
One of the things made very clear is that the two main characters hate each other. That hatred is red hot and we watch as Caesar and the Colonel end up before each other with nothing more than a desire to see the other dead.
Caesar sends his fellow apes to a place where he believes they will be safe from the Colonel and his forces. Then we watch the journey of Caesar with three of his closest fellow apes to where the Colonel is.
Along the way, they find a young girl (Amiah Miller) who cannot speak. They also find a fellow ape named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who is like Caesar and is able to speak.
What “War for the Planet of the Apes” presents is the fight to avoid that which cannot be changed. There is something going on here that none of the characters can combat or do anything about.
This leads them to do things that are foolish in the larger scheme of things. It also makes them turn into enemies those who are going to end up facing what is coming in spite of all that they have done to stop it.
As I watched, I thought of the current state of U.S. churches. We seem to be fighting against something that is going to take place regardless of what we do.
The culture changed, and most of us did not. Now we are facing a wave that is coming that is either going to wipe us out or we will find ways to ride it to another place of being.
The struggle in the movie echoes the struggle of all who face a culture that feels foreign to us. And the reality of that calls for us to become people who learn the culture and finds positive ways to engage it.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a great movie.
It has much to say to humans in the guise of apes. There are lessons here for the learning if one will engage and discover the common bonds between the two.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence.
Director: Matt Reaves
Writers: Mark Bomback and Matt Reaves, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
Cast: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Woody Harrelson (The Colonel), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Steve Zahn (Bad Ape), Amiah Miller (Nova).
The movie’s website is here.