War For The Planet of Apes lays bare our dying humanity

The final instalment of the Apes trilogy also unsettles the audience with its grim portrayal of the man versus wild conflict.

 |  3-minute read |   17-07-2017
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War for the Planet of The Apes is on its way to box-office glory. The final film of the apes trilogy helmed by Matt Reeves, although biblical in many ways, mirrors our present reality. From biting issues like xenophobia to racial profiling to the refugee crisis, this cinematic universe of apes echoes the maladies of the modern times.

Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), the central character who has been designed akin to the biblical figure Moses, who was sent by God to release Israelites enslaved by an Egyptian pharaoh. The epic escape plot by Caesar’s trusted adviser Maurice (Karin Konoval), a kind-hearted orangutan, Rocket (Terry Notary) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) can be seen as the exodus of Israelites from Egypt across the Red Sea. While the film is replete with scenes that evoke biblical fables, it also has the human element as its heart.

The core of the human element are virtues like compassion, empathy and kindness. The final installment of the Apes trilogy also unsettles the audience with its grim portrayal of the man versus wild conflict. The apes, after gaining intelligence and the human ability to speak, turn more humane towards the conclusion, unlike the humans who are vicious and go on a hate-mongering spree.

Commentary on growing hate

The antagonist — a mysterious colonel played by Woody Harrelson — is very much like today's firebrand leaders across the globe. In a bid to prevent the Simian virus from infiltrating his military faction Alpha Omega’s base, the colonel captures the apes who were on their way to the promised land (again a biblical reference) and forces them into building a wall.

The building of the wall has become an oft-used trope since the second half of 2016, after US president Donald Trump, then a Republican nominee in the US presidential elections, vowed to build a wall to prevent Mexican migrants from entering the country.

In one of the sequences, the colonel narrates his motive to Caesar who is held captive by his aides Red and the Preacher. The colonel, who appears crude, nonchalantly claims to have killed his own men infected by the Simian virus that snatches the power of speech from men and gradually degenerates them into a primitive state.

daa_071717051415.jpgThe affection and sensitivity shown by Maurice for the little girl raises several questions about the humans in the Apes universe.

A victim of his own ego, the colonel, towards the climax, succumbs to the virus and takes his own life. The end of the colonel evokes a sense of satisfaction as it reinstates the commonly-held notion that hate never trumps.

High on compassion

The War For The Planet of Apes is a spectacular ode to human emotions. Besides being deeply stirring, the film evokes a series of philosophical questions — what makes us human? Is life worthy of saving, does the idea of a soul exist?

The emotional quotient of this CGI-led human drama is heightened each time it focuses on the large, liquid, eyes of Maurice, which brims with compassion.

Maurice, who embarks on Caesar’s quest to avenge the death of his wife and son, chances upon a mute girl whom he later christens Nova after the insignia of a Chevy Nova car found by Bad Ape.

The affection and sensitivity shown by Maurice for the little girl raises several questions about the humans in the Apes universe.

apeem_071717051626.jpgThe emotional quotient of this CGI-led human drama is heightened each time it focuses on the large, liquid eyes of Maurice, which brims with compassion.

Both Maurice and Caesar’s luminous eyes are like a crater full of emotions left far behind by the same humans who, enthused by their novel ideas, subjected them to experimental mistreatment.

While much of humanity has been wiped out due to the virus, the few who are left are waging war against one another, compelled by their own flawed motives.

Very few films that I have watched in the recent past have stirred me emotionally and triggered a wave of sentiments as The War For The Planet of Apes has.

Garth Davis’ Lion (2016) starring Dev Patel was one movie in the recent times that succeeded in depicting raw human sentiments. The film that traced the course of an Indian boy’s journey to locate his biological mother was a treat for both the brain and the soul. As is War For The Planet of Apes.

Also read: Love, sex and nothing in Hanif Kureishi's new novella

Writer

Bijin Jose Bijin Jose @bijin_jose

The reluctant generalist, works at India Today. Loves literature, poetry, philosophy. A wanderer, existentialist, critic, secular humanist.

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