WAR FOR THE
PLANET OF THE APES
Film Review © 2017 by Trip Reynolds
Science Fiction, Fantasy
Directed by Matt Reeves; Screenplay by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves; Based on Characters Created by Ricik Jaffa and Amanda Silver; Based on the original novel by Piere Boulle; Produced by Peter Chermin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver; Co-producer Ryan Stafford; Executive Producer Mark Bomback, Mary McLaglen, and Jenno Topping.
Starring Andy Serkis (as the ape leader, Caesar), Woody Harrelson (as military leader, The Colonel, representing the continued control of all humanity by White people because Black, Native American, Latino, and Asian people are, as usual, absent from any positions of control or leadership in this re-imaging of the future of humanity), Steve Zahn (as the Bad Ape), Karin Konoval (as Maurice), Amiah Miller (as Nova), and Terry Notary (as Rocket), Ty Olsson (as Red Donkey), Michael Adamthwaite (as Luca), Toby Kebbell (as Koba), Gabriel Chavarria (as Preacher), Judy Greer (as Cornelia), Sara Canning (as Lake), Devyn Dalton (as Cornelius), and a host of others.
Yes, this film is only rated -1 star, meaning it was a mistake to even think about making it in the first place. Therefore, before reviewing this latest installment of the "Planet of the Apes" film franchise, let's begin with some key background information, and then identify subsequent problems that sequels and remakes consistently failed to address.
BACKGROUND: The original 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes" had two things that all subsequent "Ape" films lacked: (1) Charlton Heston in the leading role; and (2) a compelling script that solidly delivered "awe and spectacle." This was an important combination because Academy Award winning actor Heston's status as a legendary actor from "the golden age of Hollywood" gave the film credibility to be viewed as a serious "film" instead of some low-budget "B" level science fiction drive-in "movie" made by Roger Corman, American International, or Hammer Films. Most importantly, Heston's acting ability lifted the film to be taken seriously. Plus, for those unfamiliar with the original book by Piere Boulle, the script was imaginative and compelling. In the late 1960s the race to land on the moon and space travel held great facination for many people around the world. "Planet of the Apes" was released nationally on April 3, 1968 and the first manned mission to land on the moon occurred fifteen-(15) months later on July 20, 1969. Clearly, the 1968 film took advantage of this interest by launching Heston and his team of astronauts into space within the first fifteen minutes of the film. Then, upon crash landing, Heston and his crew found themselves in a desolate place and quickly discovered a bizarre reality of awe and spectacle where their humanity had no value. As represented by the two film clips below, the original "Planet of the Apes" uniquely delivered "awe and spectacle" that none of the subsequent sequels or remakes delivered, and consequently, this franchise has been going downhill ever since.
DISCOVERY - AWE AND SPECTACLE FOR THE APES
(because all humans were primitive, had no language skills, and were unable to talk)
DISCOVERY - AWE AND SPECTACLE FOR HUMANITY
(because we finally discover what happened to the great civilizations built by humans)
THE PLANET OF THE APES - ORIGINAL FILM SERIES
THE PROBLEM: The original 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes" was more than just a bunch of actors running around in monkey suits, it communicated key principles that none of the subsequent sequels or remakes addressed as a cornerstone to the future of ape-kind, specifically: (1) ape does not kill ape; and (2) ape is better than man. Instead of evolving and exploring these principles to discover how a truly "enlightened" socio-economic futuristic ape culture might exist, we're confronted with scripts where apes engage in the same clichéd murderous and inhumane practices that defined and doomed humanity. Keep in mind, these "apes" (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, etc.) are smarter, faster, stronger, and they have a much greater sense of family and community than humans, so why didn't the subsequent films show the linear progression of their higher evolution? Instead, the ape culture never advanced. Even with better monkey suits, better special effects, no matter, we see the same film over and over and over and over again. Even the franchise reboot in 2001 offered the same old crap.
THE PLANET OF THE APES - REBOOT (FAILED)
Directed by Tim Burton; Screenplay by William Broyles, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. Produced by Richard D. Zanuck. 2001
Starring Mark Wahlberg (as astronaut Leo Davidson), Tim Roth (as the evil General Thade), Helena Bonham Carter (as Ari, champion for human rights), Michael Clarke Duncan (as Attar, the General's muscle guy), Kris Kristofferson (as Karubi, a militant human), and Estella Warren (as Daena). Also starring Paul Giamatti (as Limbo) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (as Krull).
This big budget "re-imagining" of the 1968 original departs from both the classic science fiction film and the source novel by author Pierre Boulle. It doesn't make the film better. Mark Wahlberg stars as Leo Davidson, an astronaut of the early twenty-first century whose routine reconnaissance mission goes sour when he's lost through a wormhole. Davidson crash-lands on a planet where intelligent, talking apes are the dominant species and humans exist as conquered slaves. A chimpanzee activist named Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) who's sympathetic to humans, and a beautiful human rebel, Daena (Estella Warren), befriend Davidson who soon becomes the most prominent figure in the human resistance movement. The villain, General Thade, wants to crush Davidson immediately. General Thade is deftly portrayed (as usual) by Tim Roth in easily the best acting of the movie.
In a very typical and clichéd screenplay Davidson always escapes the General's clutches. Ditto to the General's trusted adjutant, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), who also exudes great desire to crush the burgeoning human uprising. Film falls apart in many sequences including sets - that look like sets - and art direction. Most notably, humans in this re-imagining clearly appear to have greater intelligence and communication skills than humans in the original film, but this re-imagining provides no revelations as to why. This re-imagining also climaxes in the Forbidden Zone but it's extraordinarily anti-climatic at this point. Who cares.
Next to Roth, the best thing about this re-imagining is the original film's star Charlton Heston in a cameo role as, ironically, the wisest of all apes! In an interesting twist, Heston recites the same dialogue from the original film - but from a different perspective.
Film is directed episodically by Tim ("Batman" and "Batman Returns") Burton.
Film has a uneven running length of 120 minutes.
THE PLANET OF THE APES - REBOOT
2011 2014 2017
Now, 43 years later, there's yet another reboot of this film franchise, albeit with state-of-the-art motion-capture-suits instead of monkey masks, and the latest in special effects, but these films cover the exact same ground. Boring. Repetitive. Unimaginative. Albert Einstein said it so clearly, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
There's no need to see these three latest additions to the film franchise, because (again) they cover the exact same ground (apes want absolutely nothing to do with man; but man must kill every ape). For example, consistent with White privilege, humans captured apes and made them their scouts and slaves. As a "plot device" to move the narrative "thematically," this can only be perceived by Native Americans and Black people as an insult, along with being boring, repetitive, and unimaginative.
Direction by Matt Reeves is perfunctory and mediocre. Film editing by William Hoy and Stan Salfas is perfunctory. Cinematography by Michael Seresin is consistent with the dark and gloomy atmosphere established by the two previous films in this film franchise.
Recommendation: Buy the original 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes," and call it a day.