AUGUST 4 — I had to steel myself to watch each of the films of the new Planet Of The Apes series.
The violence and cruelty to the apes were really difficult to take in (like the pictures of the poor orang utans who died thanks to the deliberately set fires in Indonesia).
However, the Planet Of The Apes trilogy was worth the effort. I say this because the philosophical import of all three films were so weighty that I found myself with some deep imponderables after watching each one.
War for Planet of the Apes (henceforth, War) was a very well placed ending to this deep trilogy. I must say though, it rather polarised audiences.
The reviews on imdb.com were quite harsh and making the mistake of reading them prior to watching the film (curiosity killed the cat’s enjoyment of the film, it seems), it made me quite trepidatious.
After all, I did not want to spoil my admiration of the first two films (Rise and Dawn) with a lame third instalment. Spiderman 3 came to mind just then.
However, when I went to my favourite film reviewers Zaki Hassan and Chris Stuckmann, both gave resoundingly good reviews. Chris even gave it one of his A grades which are rarer than dodo birds!
War takes up the story where Dawn left off. The Apes now have to face the human armies who were coming from the north. Under the leadership of the charismatic Caesar, they had established a settlement deep in the forest.
Caesar is a practitioner of the “live and let live” philosophy. He did not want to bother the humans nor vice versa. In the second film, the humans had to enter Ape territory in order to take control of the dam which would provide them energy.
In this third film, however, their need is even more existential. The Apes are now seen as the bringers of a new strain of virus which wiped out human civilization in the first film. This new strain, rather than just killing off humans like before, actually renders them without speech and almost like apes themselves!
This is where “The Colonel” comes in. Played by the awesome Woody Harrelson (who has come a long way from Cheers!), the Colonel is like a Nazi general who sees the apes as a race of abominations which need to be wiped out.
He conducts a secret raid into Ape territory and forces Caesar and his tribe to leave. However, through a tragic string of events, Caesar is forced to go after the Colonel and take him on his very doorstep.
It is here Caesar discovers the Colonel is running a Nazi-style internment camp where Apes are subject to forced labour to aid the Colonel’s war.
Of course, with Caesar around, you can bet the Colonel and his troops won’t have an easy time.
As I mentioned above, the philosophical import of these three films is inexorable. From Rise itself, we are faced with some existential questions. How did consciousness first emerge? Are they a product of evolution or is there an intangible source at play?
Caesar, at the centre of this trilogy, I would argue was awakened to consciousness through compassion, namely for his human friend. However, by the start of the second film, he had become adjusted to the realities of the world and was suspicious of all humans.
That changed by the end of the second film when he saw that there were humans who were utterly selfless.
In this third film, I believe Caesar discovers his own ego through his personal anger and lust for revenge. In a way, I suppose this shows that with the emergence of the consciousness of the self, comes the formation of the ego and thus new challenges.
In any case, I would recommend this trilogy to film fans. It will give you much to think about and if not, at least you will enjoy the story!
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.