No One to Root for in This War for the Planet of the Apes
- Carrie Dedrick Family Editor, Crosswalk.com
- 2017 13 Jul
Long and unnecessarily drawn-out, War for the Planet of the Apes is getting a lot of hype from secular critics, but there is very little here for a Christian audience to appreciate. Unless you can handle extreme amounts of violence and blood or are a devoted fan of the franchise, sit this one out. 2 out of 5.
Intelligent apes are at war with the humans who created them in futuristic, dreary America. After a battle, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the ape leader, sends a message to the humans' military Colonel (Woody Harrelson) that the apes want to live peacefully, but the Colonel invades the apes' camp, killing Caesar's wife and elder son. Caesar is filled with a desire for revenge, and refuses to evacuate the area with the rest of the tribe. Three other apes join him in solidarity. The four apes encounter a mute, orphaned human child (Amiah Miller, orphaned because they killed her father) on their journey for revenge against the Colonel. One of the four insists that they take the child with them. Caesar agrees with great reluctance. When they arrive at the military camp, this group of apes is stunned to find that their entire tribe has been enslaved by the military - they were caught by the humans while trying to reach safety. With their loved ones captured, the apes devise a plan to free the tribe, and reach land where they can live in secret, away from the murderous humans.
The soundtrack - especially the score by Academy Award-winner Michael Giacchino - is expressive and beautiful throughout the film, and the scenery is often appealing, particularly the views of snow-capped mountains. The ape babies are adorable; it's heartwarming to see how deeply their parents care for them, and the actions they are willing to take in order to keep them safe. You have to appreciate the resourcefulness of the apes as they plan their escape to freedom. Most notable is how the film portrayed nonverbal communication. The mute child, who the apes name Nova, is able to speak through her expressions and actions; her goodness is palpable, displaying a nice picture of how affection can grow between individuals despite differences and disabilities.
I do not generally enjoy movies with a lot of violence and gore, and War for the Planet of the Apes had too much of both. Toward the beginning of the film, there was no one to root for. Both the apes and the humans acted atrociously, causing a gloom to settle over the whole film. The frequent battle scenes are hard to follow with so many CGI explosions, and it often feels like there is just too much going on - my Synopsis above doesn't begin to cover the many sub-plots of this movie. Yet somehow, despite all the battle and goings-on, the pacing drags. Some of the talking apes speak slowly; I kept wishing they would just finish their sentence already so we could move on. There is one ape who is clearly supposed to be comic relief, and though my theater laughed at his goofy antics once, his presence just seemed awkward in an otherwise dark film. Finally, while I didn't predict the ending, it seemed like a complete cop-out. It was way too easy for a 3-part blockbuster series.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Forgiveness is mentioned several times. Koba, a competing leader of the apes, is said to have not been able to forgive the humans. Caesar later recognizes this quality in himself, saying that he is not able to escape his hate. There is a strong theme of family throughout of the film; the apes not only have their individual families, but also are one as a tribe. Nova is accepted into the family through a concept of adoption. She seems to be symbolic of peace and forgiveness - though the apes killed her father, she shows them only compassion and grace. A cross is visible on the wall when the Colonel talks about sacrificing his son, for what he believes to be the greater good of the human race.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
- Language/Profanity: Jesus' name is used in vain, one use of "hell", God's name is used in vain in conjunction with d*** it.
- Sexuality/Nudity: None.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Continuous shooting and explosions; humans and apes shown bloody and dying/dead throughout; ape repeatedly punches a human; ape is strangled/smothered to death by another ape; bloody humans uncovered from snow; apes shown dead/dying on cross-like wooden contraptions; apes whipped by humans; a human commits suicide.
Drugs/Alcohol: The Colonel pours a drink from flask, later shown nearly passed out drunk while trying to reach for bottle of liquor.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of the Planet of the Apes franchise, people who enjoy war movies and science-fiction, those who like long action sequences of fiery explosions.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Children, animal lovers, people who hate subtitles in films, people who loathe violent/bloody movies; avoid if you haven't seen the previous two movies.
War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves, opened in theaters July 14, 2017; available for home viewing October 24, 2017. It runs 142 minutes and stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Steve Zahn, Terry Notary and Karin Konoval. Watch the trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes here.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor for Family content at Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: July 14, 2017
Image courtesy: ©20thCenturyFox