The third installment of the Planet Of The Apes prequel series, War for the Planet of The Apes is hitting theaters nationwide this Friday, July 14th and as a fan of the series I can’t wait to see what those damn dirty apes are going to do this time. However, if you are like me it can be tough to remember what happened in a long running movie series. When I go see the latest Avengers or Marvel universe film I must furiously Google the plots of last thirteen movies to recall what old Nick Fury has been up to.
That is why for those of us with fast-fading memories of the difference between Caesar and a Caesar salad I have put together another franchise recap! We will be turning to our human masters and shouting the word “NO!” in no time!
NOTE: it is safe to say that there will be SPOILERS if you have not yet seen the first two Planet of the Apes prequals, so go do that now if you haven’t. There is some debate as to if the current prequal series is really a complete “reboot” of the original franchise or if these new films are actually direct prequals to the timeline of the original Charlton Heston staring movie. While the original 1968 film Planet of the Apes had four sequels, some of which addressed how the planet earth was taken over by apes, I’d like to believe that the new films are, in fact, canon to the classic. However, everyone agrees that neither series is connected to the dreadful 2001 Tim Burton remake where Mark Wahlberg gives a lady ape a smooch.
So let us start with Planet of The Apes. The film begins as four American astronauts including Taylor (Heston), Landon, Dodge and Stewart leave Earth in 1972 aboard the spaceship Icarus. The humans are in deep sleep hibernation and wake-up when the ship crash lands on an unknown planet in the middle of a lake. With one of the crew having been killed in the crash, Taylor is shocked to discover, according to the ship’s computer, it is the year 3978- almost exactly two thousand years in the future! Unfortunately for Taylor and the gang, this is not the cool post-singularity, machines-merging-with-mankind type of future. Instead the survivors of the Icarus slowly move through an apocalyptic wasteland, the soil near the crash site unable to support life.
Eventually the spacemen make it to a human settlement only to discover that the human population of this world are mute and on a tribal, cavemen like level of sophistication. The humans, though, steal their clothing and supplies before a group of apes on horseback attack the human settlement, Dodge is killed, and Landon is unconscious while Taylor is shot in the neck, thus making him unable to talk. The invading apes therefore think he is just another dumb, mute human and throw him in with the rest of their captives, taking them all to Ape City. There, Taylor sees that there is an entire civilization of primates who can ride horses, use guns and are developing technology akin to the early Industrial era.
Taylor attempts to communicate with Cornelius, an archaeologist who we later find out has theories on the idea that humans once had an advanced civilization in what is known as “The Forbidden Zone.” This theory and any attempt to treat humans with dignity or kindness is met with a swift rebuttal from her compatriots. Cornelius is kind to Taylor who she calls “Bright Eyes.” Humans are treated like animals or slaves and it seems the apes have not yet developed a “no cruelty to animals” policy. How cruel? Learning that Taylor is attempting to write words and might be intelligent, it is ordered that he be castrated. Ouch! This doesn’t sit well with the astronaut so he attempts to escape and in doing so finds his voice again, and when apprehended again by apes he screams, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty apes!”
This gets their attention and the apes hold a meeting to find out exactly what is up with the darn filthy talking human. Here Taylor discovers that one of the other astronauts, Landon is alive but has been lobotomized so isn’t going to be of much help. After it is threatened that Taylor will be lobotomized AND castrated (the apes seem to be obsessed with this, which is a not so subtle commentary on our own treatment of animals today) Cornelius and some others help Taylor escape to the Forbidden Zone which we find out has lots of human artifacts. This ends with the iconic scene where Heston’s character looks up and sees the ruins of the Statue of Liberty in the sand, finally realizing that he is actually on the remains of Earth after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization.
Now we jump back to the beginning of the prequals to find out how exactly humanity ended it all and the apes took over! 2011’s Rise of the Planet of The Apes begins with a scientist in San Francisco named Will Rodman (James Franco) working on a drug to cure Alzheimer’s disease. His experiments with chimpanzees, developing the drug ALZ-112 seem to be successful. We find out that Will is motivated for his research in part because his father (John Lithgow) is himself suffering from dementia. Will gives the drug to a chimp named “Bright Eyes” (a reference to the nickname Cornelius gave Taylor in the original film!) making her much smarter. However, things take a turn when at a big biotech presentation Bright Eyes goes crazy, attacking humans and must be put down. This leads to the entire chimp driven research project to be abandoned with the remaining animals also being euthanized by the drug company (no castration-happy humans to give a call back to that theme thankfully). But Will discovers that Bright Eyes had a baby before being killed and he secretly agrees to take the animal home and raise it. He names the chimp Caesar and soon finds that Caesar inherited the same cognitive abilities that his mother was developing. What could go wrong? In the meantime Will gives the experimental drug to his father whose dementia symptoms improve.
Caesar has a pretty fun “child hood” growing up with Will until five years later he starts to question his identity as a thinking animal. At this point without access to the experimental drug Will’s father starts to regress and Caesar gets in a confrontation with a neighbor, injuring the man. This leads to animal control taking Caesar away and putting him in a primate shelter where he is abused by cruel guards. Caesar uses his intelligence to become the Alpha of the primates in the enclosure. During this time we learn that the drug company is now working on a new version of the Alzheimer’s treatment, the gaseous ALZ 113. Will’s former assistant Franklin experiments on a primate with it, but when exposed to the gas, he becomes ill and dies. Wanting to again alleviate the dementia symptoms of this father, Will takes canisters of the new drug home with him before he can be warned of the deadly side effects they give humans.
Will’s father dies after denying further treatment, but bigger problems are afoot when Caesar escapes the facility to steal the canisters of AZL 113, bring them back and release the gas in order to make his fellow apes smarter like he is. One of the cruel guards tries to put Caesar back in a cage. However, he turns to him and Caesar screams “NO!” – and they discover that he can talk, a sort of homage to the original film and the moment when the apes find out that Taylor can talk.
The newly smart apes form a makeshift army, releasing test subject apes from the drug company and even the primates at San Francisco Zoo while administering the enhancing drug. (Luckily for humans they did not visit SeaWorld to see if the drug would work on the very intelligent dolphins or else the sea would be off limits as well!) The human police try to regain control of the runaway apes, leading to a standoff on the Golden Gate Bridge as they try to escape into the Redwood Forest. Caesar leads them into battle, crashing a helicopter and killing a bunch of people. Will pleads with Caesar to surrender or else the humans will continually hunt them, but Caesar tells him “Caesar is home.” They say their last goodbyes and we see the smart apes begin their life in the forest away from people. In a final scene, we see Will’s next door neighbor who is injected go to work as an airline pilot, thus spreading the humanity ending virus all over the world. So the same drug that made apes smart also kills humans. It’s a double whammy!
This gets us to the sequel to the first prequal, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of The Apes. It is ten years later and things have not been going well for humanity to say the least. The “Simian Flu”- the result of the spread of the deadly ALZ-113 – has left the human population completely decimated. Meanwhile Caesar and his colony of intelligent apes have developed their own civilization in the Muir Woods nearby. There is an unspoken truce between humans and apes until a man accidentally comes across Caesars’ son Blue Eyes and his friend Ash. Seeing the apes, the human panics, shooting Ash who is badly wounded. Other members of the man’s party including a leader named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) show up, but so does an angry Caesar who quickly tells them to skedaddle.
Koba, a bonobo who hates humans for their past animal experiments, convinces Caesar to lead an army of apes to make a visit to the human colony in order to ensure that they stay in their territory. A small group of survivors live in the remnants of San Francisco at an unfinished skyscraper, called The Tower. Caesar visits them, stating that the apes do not want to fight, but will do what they have to, to project themselves and it would be best for both humans and apes if everyone just stayed in their own territories. This is fine by most of the humans, however Malcolm convinces Dreyfus, a co-leader of the group, that in order to survive they need to go into the apes’ territory to repair the hydroelectric damn to restore electricity to the city. Malcolm thus meets with Caesar who agrees to let the men work on the damn but only if they give up their guns and weapons. This works well, and it seems that tensions are easing between the humans and apes.
However, Caesar discovers a man with a gun in ape held territory and the deal is off. The humans must leave! Luckily after humans use medicine to save Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, he gives them one more day to get the damn up and working. However, the trust has been broken. The Human Dreyfus arms his community, wary of the apes, and his counterpart with the apes, Koba, confronts Caesar wanting him to go to war with humans. This leads to a fight where Caesars severely beats Koba. In retaliation Koba later sets fire to the ape village and shoots Caesar, taking command and blaming humans for what has happened. Thus the apes attack the people in San Francisco, gaining access to weapons and imprisoning much of the colony. However Koba orders Ash to kill the unarmed people, and when Ash objects to this morally, Koba kills him and promises to end the life of anyone still adhering to the kind teachings of Caesar.
Meanwhile Caesar reconnects with his son Blue Eyes who learns of Koba’s betrayal; it turns out apes can be just as terrible as humans! Thus Blue Eyes and Malcolm head into The Tower to free the imprisoned humans and stop Koba. In the ensuing fight, Caesar shows up to fight Koba who he disowns and throws off the tower. However, Malcolm learns that the electricity from the dam allowed Dreyfus to make radio contact with another survivor colony of humans at a military base and now those armed men are on their way to San Francisco …..for a WAR with the apes!
And that gets us ready for War for the Planet of the Apes. It takes place two years after the events of ‘Dawn and Caesar is at a breaking point. The trailer looks pretty good, so check back next week for my full review of the latest film in the Planet of The Apes franchise.
What is your favorite Planet of the Apes movie?