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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes Review: The Hate Escape.

Caesar... is... sad.

They did it. They really did it. They made a near perfect trilogy of films after changing directors a third of the way through. They pioneered a motion capture tec so convincing I forget I'm looking at FX 10 minutes in. They managed to fit a touching amount of humanity and nuance in a story told in broad, vibrant, strokes. What these films have to say about politics, war, and civilization deserves to become immortal. This is Shakespeare with gorillas and guns and by god it all works. 

Whoo! I'd better slow down a bit, don't want to sound like this is the be all end all. I don't see a screenwriting oscar in it's future. Still though, these films are so good and so unique I can't help but trip over my own words while I evangelize them. They always play against my expectations. When I expect to see apes conquering the fading world of man; I see apes struggling to stay alive while man does a fine job killing itself.

In the aftermath of Koba's rebellion, his former faithful kowtow to the last bastion of military strength in America. Wouldn't you know it, it's a skin head militia. War wears its incendiary politics on its sleeve. It shines a spotlight on this country's biggest social issue and screams "All these people want is a world where they're in charge. Get it?!"

These "donkeys" are branded and sent to work as dishwashers and pack mules. They betray the future of their own kind only out of spite for their old leader. Subtle ain't it? Naturally, Caesar and co. want out of the Red Woods ASAP. Their scouts found a way, but how do you sneak 200 odd apes around an army?

Caesar is a lot more tired now, his fur snowy with age. He's ready to give his life to make sure his people get out. The dirty secret is this movie isn't about a war at all. It's about the torture and suffering required for leadership. Uneasy lies the head and all that.

I'm sure there was a version of this script with a more Christ-like Caesar but thank god this one is anything but holy. He is consumed by betrayal and it gets him nothing but trouble... and a mute blonde kid. It's fun to see them work in the original's use of mute humans, though this time it's cause is viral instead of surgical. The single best scene is all about Woody Harrelson's skin head commander facing the silent future of humanity and tragically losing his sh*t.

So emotional...
There's so much more I want to talk about. But they've managed to keep the last 2 acts a complete secret and I'll be damned if I spoil what this movie is really about. Serkis is still tremendous as Caesar, Maurice is still the world's most lovable orangutan, and Steve Zahn singlehandedly saves the film from being a complete bummer. No small feat.

I'll need to see it again to see how it stacks up against Dawn, one of my 10 perfect movies, but right now they're pretty close to each other. It's rare to see movies that understand intrigue, politics, and humor all at once. Even rarer to see those movies get top spot at the box office. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring filmmakers. This trilogy had it's "thinking man's sci fi" cake and ate it too. So can yours.

Kentucky's favorite son.

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