My New Obsession: Planet of the Apes
SPOILERS! GO WATCH THE MOVIE AND THEN READ! YAY!
When my mother told us, on her birthday, that she wanted to watch Planet of the Apes, I swear you could hear crickets. We were all a little confused. First off, we thought she meant the 1968 film. Sure, it’s a classic. But, not what we expected my mother to want to watch on her day of birth.
She explained that she wanted to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the 2011 prequel starring James Franco (who is the reason all of humanity dies, spoiler alert). I don’t know how I missed these movies when they came out in theatres, but I was not familiar with the reboots.
We watched Rise that night and then Dawn the next night. We watched them over and over for a week until we could finally see War for the Planet of the Apes, the anticipated conclusion to the trilogy. I only had to anticipate it for a week, I don’t know how I would have anticipated it for three years.
The movies are incredible and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what I love so much about them. They are terribly sad, first off. I just can’t do ape deaths. Especially ape deaths as cruel as Ash’s death. (Koba throwing him over the ledge. Dude. Ape not kill ape, man!)
After the first movie, I was #TeamApe. But, what I love about Dawn is that you realize that it’s not just humans vs. apes. There are good humans and there are good apes just as much as there are bad humans and bad apes. So, at the end of the second movie I was (and am) #TeamCaesar.
I’ve never loved a character as much as I have loved Caesar and I’ve never wept so hard as much as I did when he died. Dude hadn’t even died yet and I was bawling. (I mean, everyone knew he was dying because him and Maurice talked about it for like 3 minutes before he fell over silently). I bawled because the whole movie I was holding on to my breath praying that Caesar would live. And, he did. He lived the whole movie and he got his people to the promised land. He did what he needed to do. His death was beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderfully satisfying. Hence the loud sobs.
War continues and executes beautifully the struggle of mercy and empathy and the terrible heartache but (sometimes) necessity of war. I personally love that the movie isn’t so much about the war, but about Caesar’s struggle to save his herd. The one thing he’s been trying to do for literally all the movies. (Just let them go to the dang forest!) I know the men who saw it with me wanted a little more action, but I enjoyed every second of the movie. It was funny, it was full of human connection (even though it’s apes), emotional and it leaves you thinking. The characters stick with me, long after the credits have rolled.
Caesar isn’t the perfect leader. He makes decisions that cost many apes their lives, including his own wife and son. I appreciate that the movie shows the consequences of both peace and war. If you fight, your kind dies. If you don’t fight, somehow, they still die. Caesar, in War, becomes consumed by his hate and wrestles with the fact that he might be more like Koba than he would ever want to admit. He literally leaves the last surviving member of his family, a young chimp, to go on a revenge mission. Probably not his best decision. But, I love when Caesar finds that his herd has been captured and hung on X-like-crosses. When he is caught and led into captivity, he sees his son in the cage, crying out to him, and he wonders, “what have I done?” You left your apes, Caesar, you left them.
This puts his personal mission on hold for a little bit because he deeply feels a responsibility to protect his herd. (I love when the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) says something to the effect of “what do you think my troops would have done to your apes if you killed me?”) He spends the next chunk of the movie trying to survive so he can be the leader his herd needs him to be. He advocates for them to get food and water, he takes the punishment of those most vulnerable, and he gives them a reason for hope. (Jesus much?)
Caesar is so good. (Thanks to the wonderful acting by Andy Serkis and the great script). He’s not perfect, but he is good. He couldn’t do it alone without the help of the unsung heroes Rocket, Maurice, Luca, and even Nova and Bad Ape. They, being in his close circle, continue to encourage and support him until he has the strength to keep going.
He, and his comrades, concoct a escape plan and somehow (by movie magic) it works! They escape! (Although, of course, some still have to die). But, Caesar must still get his revenge. He goes up to the Colonel’s lounge-thing and finds that he has lost his ability to speak. (The humans are slowly losing their ability to speak and becoming more primitive, btw). Caesar extends mercy on the Colonel and does not kill him (although the Colonel ends up pulling the trigger himself). It’s a beautiful moment that confirms that Caesar is not Koba and can have mercy. He is good.
The other human army shows up to attack this human army, not to help them. Though, it is Caesar who finishes them by throwing a grenade at a gas tank. That sets off an avalanche (I was happy for this deux ex machina so we didn’t have to see a humans vs. apes part 2) and kills human army #2. Because the apes are incredible, they survive by climbing the trees. I could forever watch the shot of Caesar barely visible in the snow, hanging on for dear life. When the snow settled and he’s still there, I thought maybe he would make it. He did it. He lived through the movie. I was rejoicing on the inside. And all the rest of the apes are alive! We did it!
They have a very Sound of Music-esque moment as they travel to a far off land to safety. Making it to their paradise, their Promise Land. Caesar dies as his son plays in the distance. It’s so freaking sad but so beautiful. He did what he set out to do. What he always wanted to do. And, he died knowing that his herd would be okay. (probably).
Ugh. It’s just so good. I ❤ Caesar.