War for the Planet of the Apes

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Spoiler Alert: That final scene in “The Planet of the Apes” (1968) has to be one of the most iconic twists in science fiction history. In the final moment, Charlton Heston, an astronaut who has crashed on a strange planet ruled by apes, discovers the Statue of Liberty half-buried on a beach, revealing that he had in fact landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth. My friends and can still remember the jarring shock as young moviegoers seeing it for the first time.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, considering that the original screenplay was written by Rod Serling, creator of “The Twilight Zone.”

The concept of a planet ruled by apes as the dominant species spawned five films between 1968 and 1973. That gave way to two televisions series in ’74 and ’75. Director Tim Burton did a so-so remake in 2001. Then came a big reboot called “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” in 2011, followed by a sequel called “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in 2014, and now a third release, “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

This new simian blockbuster is currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

Which side you’ll root for depends somewhat on your sensitivity. The unspoken theme for this sci-fi series has always been about race.

That was not the case for the novel on which the first movie was based, “La Planète des Singes.” French author Pierre Boulle was inspired by the “humanlike expressions” of gorillas at the zoo and decided to emulate Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” with a satirical look at the failings of mankind. He rejected the term science fiction, instead describing it as social fantasy.

You say tomatoes, I say to-mat-oes.

The recent reboots were able to take advantage of modern CGI visual effects technology, creating apes that seem just as alive and real as the human actors.

Andy Serkis brought the main ape Caesar to life with his motion-capture performance. As you’ll recall he did also did that as the Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey,” as King Kong in the same-named 2005 film, and as Supreme Leader Snoke in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

This new version directed by Matt Reeves (he also directed “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) draws on many classic films for inspiration, ranging from familiar war epics to “Ben Hur.”

The plot pits lead-ape Caesar (Serkis) against a human soldier known as The Colonel (a stern-faced Woody Harrelson) in something of an homage to “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” The director likens it to the relationship between Alec Guinness’s British commander and Sessue Hayakawa’s prison camp colonel.

The title pretty much sums up the storyline for “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Taking place two years after the previous events, Caesar and his apes find themselves at war against the humans. The outcome will determine the future for Earth.

We won’t spoil it by telling you the outcome, but suffice that there is a future for Earth. A fourth film in this rebooted series is already being planned.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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