Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wartime For Bonzo!

Just went to see the third installment in the twenty-first century reboot of the Planet of the Apes saga. The title War for the Planet of the Apes tells you a lot about what to expect in this very entertaining movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes told how a laboratory developed drugs to treat degenerative brain diseases and instead created a super-intelligent apes of all kinds and proved to be a deadly plague for mankind. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pushes the story forward about a decade after most of the human race has died off and only a relatively few genetically immune survivors cling to the embers of society while a new culture of apes lies hidden in the woods. The interactions between these two communities offers hope but ends in death and murder setting the stage for the war to come.

In the new movie we see that war, three years or so after the previous movie. The movie opens with a ferocious battle between the apes and a human military unit dubbed "Alpha-Omega" and their ape collaborators called "Donkeys".  The apes are led by the original super-smart ape Caesar and his cohorts, an orangutan named Maurice, a chimp named Rocket, and a gorilla named Luca. These four seek some measure of revenge after a brutal attack on the ape lair which sends the larger group seeking a promise land beyond a distant desert.

But the plan goes awry and after finding a mute young girl who comes to be named Nova and another intelligent chimp who is known only a "Bad Ape" (who supplies some deliriously funny comedy relief as performed by Steve Zahn), they find the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his soldiers and much more. That's all I'll say.

The story is a violent one, as you 'd expect for a war story. But it's also an exceedingly personal story with a full range of emotions explored and explored successfully in the faces of the humans and the apes. That's the remarkable thing about this movie, the level of technical finesse which allows the apes to seem so real is stunning. You forget for huge swathes of the movie that they are not real, they merely smart apes who are trying to live and fight and do what "people" do. The acting in sync with the animation create a synthetic whole which feels absolutely alive. Andy Serkis is on record with some pretty dismissive remarks about the impact of the animation on his performance, but without countless technical hands this performance would not exist. I don't see Andy Serkis, I see Caesar and "Caesar" here is a fusion of human and computer which results in a striking presentation.

Highest recommendation, but make sure to see the first two movies before you go. The back story is critical to fully understanding the character development.

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