The Planet of the Apes series has always been a franchise that was more respected than enjoyed: something to “experience” in a trippy, drug-addled stupor or to watch just to say you had. Nobody really kept them in regular rotation on their TV nor popped them in on a rainy stay-at-home day. Its reputation had long since outstripped its popular relevance.
That is, it was up until it was rebooted with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. State of the art motion-capture, a standout cast and compelling drama made it one of the biggest cinematic surprises from that year. 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took the rekindled franchise to the next level: depicting the post-apocalyptic conflict between the struggling last remnants of humanity and the swelling tribes of super-intelligent monkeys.
Now War for the Planet of the Apes is one of 2017’s most anticipated movies: up there with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Blade Runner 2049. People who five years ago could barely mumbled “get your stinkin’ paws off me you damn dirty apes” are going to wait in line with a hundred other avid fans to see if the last vestiges of humankind can learn to coexist with the increasingly dominant ape society.
Although easy to slip notice in the throng of other December trailers, War for the Planet of the Apes‘ first trailer reminds us just why this franchise has crawled itself back from the brink of obscurity. The new trailer shows a movie that is as beautifully shot and hard-hitting as its immediate forbearers.
After the hard-fought peace between man and apes in Dawn, the desperate Humans are forced into conflict with Caesar’s simians in an increasingly hostile and wild world. Woody Harrelson plays a colonel who marshals the dwindling masses against the apes in a final fight for dominance of the planet. Framing the coming battle as a holy war against nature itself, he promises that “if [Humans] lose, it will be a planet of apes.”
Harrelson’s character is the kind of “true believer” that I love to see as a villain: a dedicated zealot who believes every propogandist lie that comes out of his mouth. He isn’t just whipping desperate fools into a frenzied mob for profit or political gain. He is training an army to carry out the one mission he believes in: ensuring the survival of the Human race.
He will wage war in the name of his species. He will kill to ensure its survival. He will commit atrocities against the apes and consider it a justifiable necessity. When he holds a gun to Caesar’s head, you know he means to pull the trigger.
I can’t say where the franchise will go from here. War promises just that: a final conflict to decide the future of the planet — one that will inevitably lead to the backwards society Charlton Heston came across in the 1968 original. Whether they continue the series with a new status quo or end it with one last confrontation between two warring species remains to be seen. I for one, will be there opening night to find out.