Saturday, July 15, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-III)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

War for the Planet of the Apes [2017] (directed and cowritten by Mark Reeves along with Mark Bomback based on the characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), block-bustery though it is, is not exactly (the recent) "Spider-Man" ;-), neither is it intended to be.  So Dear Readers, if you think that you can "put aside your mind" as you watch this film, smiling from ear-to-ear with a big tub of popcorn in your lap, that's probably not going to happen.  That will probably disappoint / anger some, while others will make the best of it, saying to themselves "Okay, this is not a pure entertainment flick, let me then try to reflect on what the film-makers are trying to say."

The current film, the third of a series of "prequels" [1] [2] to the famed 1960s-70s era Planet of the Apes [wikip] [IMDb] film-franchise inspired by the novel (1963) [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by French author Pierre Boulle [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb], explores the Rise of a new Civilization of the Apes (as well as the simultaneous / corresponding collapse of the Human one): It would have had to have been an "Apocalypse" -- or as a graffiti in the current film declares it to have been an "Ape-ocalypse" ;-).  Postulated in this series of prequels is a human Mass Extinction Event brought about by a viral "simian flu" which simultaneously killed the vast majority of humans while greatly increasing the capacities of Apes (allowing them to walk erect as well as develop true language -- some Apes in the current film were able to speak while most others could communicate by means of a by now well-developed sign language).

The current film is set in that transitional period when the numbers of both remaining humans and (rising) intelligent apes were small.  The resulting _lack of noise_ (because of a _lack of a lot of people_ (and still a relatively small number of intelligent, but mostly sign-language communicating, apes) is probably the _most memorable aspect_ of this film.  (It will also be the aspect of the film that will probably most frustrate casual Viewers...).

That much of the film takes place _in winter_ in and around a human citadel based up in California's (High) Sierras adds to THE COLDNESS / DREARINESS of the Time -- one Civilization was Dying and another completely different one was Rising.

The Human Citadel in question had apparently been intended to be a "quarantine facility" for first "infected humans" but had been converted instead into "a safe zone" for those (few) humans who were not.  The few crazed but highly armed humans who lived there were making their "last stand" and ... in as much out of weakness / dread as out of their (remaining) strength (the humans were still heavily armed while the apes were not), the crazed humans there, led by a head-shaven former "Special Forces" Colonel (played quite realistically by Woody Harrelson in a manner clearly intended to evoke Marlon Brando's portrayal of the crazed Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now [1979]) ran the Citadel as a "Gulag-like" "Ape Concentration Camp" (as a last gasp effort to "keep the (rising) Apes down").

I don't think that it's much of a Spoiler to tell Readers here that this "last gasp effort" (to keep the Apes down) did not succeed ... And a fascinating final "Act of God" (or at least Act of Nature...)  finally settles the Story.

It's all very remarkable, if DEFINITELY NOT simple "Blockbuster Fare" ;-).

Striking to me, though I _don't_ think it was directly intended, is that the "Ape-ocalypse" presented in this recent series of films plays out in quite similar fashion to the European Conquest of the Americas:

After all, it's becoming increasingly clear (as per a remarkable book called 1491 by Charles C. Mann) that what happened to most of the Native Peoples in the Americas (and did not happen the same way in Africa or Asia) was that the Native Peoples of the Americas were, above all, _decimated_ (reduced to 1/10 their strength) by the _inadvertant_ arrival of European-brought DISEASE (mostly small-pox) and that, only _afterward_, the remaining Aztecs or Incas were not capable of putting up an effective resistance to encroaching Europeans. (In contrast, the Native Peoples / Civilizations of Africa to say nothing of South / East Asia were not destroyed in the same way.  Yes, many were conquered and endured decades or even (a few) centuries of Colonial rule, BUT ... the native peoples of Africa / Asia didn't disappear completely as they largely did in large parts of the Americas).

In the current series of films, the successful Rise of the Apes comes about only after the decimation of Humanity by a (similar) plague ...

Again, fascinating, thought-provoking, but ... not exactly what one would expect to contemplate after a "light" summer movie ;-).  Good job, I think ;-)

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