PG-13 for all the talking monkey violent action that you can handle. Are you bored with your normal talking monkey action violence? No. You aren't? Well, I'm going to stop this convention and just talk about how a lot of monkeys fight both humans and each other. There's some big explosions and some dead monkeys. Is there cursing? I don't remember. It's probably some monkey stuff. Oh, there's also poop. Also, don't get mad at me for calling them monkeys.
DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves
I wanted to like this movie. I'm sorry, Mr. Murray. I know you loved this movie, but I just couldn't get into it. I loved the first two in the franchise. These were movies that I saw alone in the theater. My wife was jazzed when I offered to watch this one in the basement instead of in front of her while she worked on her puzzle. I wanted to come up the stairs and tell her how good the movie was and how she missed out. I can't say that it was all that amazing. Maybe I just needed it to be better, which is unfair to the movie itself. The biggest problem? It was a two hour and twenty minute movie when it needed to be an hour and forty minutes.
I think that the biggest problem, besides the criminal runtime for the film, is Hollywood's love of recreating the magic of the reboot. I know that there are a few franchises that are in the three-boot eras, but I'm talking about when movies want to recreate Casino Royale. Casino Royale, for the Bond films, showed that taking a character back to basics kind of works. As part of that, sequels to that film tried to continue the origin of the character. But the movies start to really scrape the bottom of the barrel. Think about if Batman never got to The Dark Knight? We get it. Batman is Batman. I want to get to Batman Batmanning everywhere he goes. The Planet of the Apes needs to learn this lesson. I can't handle another origin story for the apes. We get it. The treatment gave us hyper-intelligent apes. We're getting sick. That's it. That's all you need to know. By the time we get to this movie, the movie is going out of its way to explain where every element from The Planet of the Apes came from. Where did Nova come from? I don't care. Why can't humans speak? I like my answer better. The needless explanations are absolutely a waste of my time. Caesar has become the leader of the apes. I get that he was going to start forming society for the apes. Why do I need to have every single moment explained to me beat-by-beat? I now question my like for the first two films. It seems like I really hated this movie. I didn't. Overall, it was better than okay. But, golly, I was bored. I threw my phone across the table so I couldn't reach it and three separate times I got up just to distract myself from how boring this movie got at points. Boring isn't bad, I guess. But apathy was one of the worst things that could have happened with this franchise.
I need to talk about how my nerd knowledge was kind of let down about this one. I hate when reviews fanboy, but this franchise wasn't ever that precious to me. Sure, I watched them with my dad when I was a kid and I overall enjoy them, but there really isn't anything sacred about the classic Planet of the Apes movies. In fact, the majority of the movies are actually pretty rough. But I also get that the main idea is that humanity has been enslaved so long that it has forgotten that it knew how to speak. I like that idea. That is far more telling. But the idea that a virus that makes humans primitive is just stupid. There's no moral lesson to a virus. When Charleton Heston shows up and speaks, it's not meant to be "Oh, he survived the virus." It's supposed to be, "He's remembered. They are going to revolt." Nova is supposed to learn from Heston. That means generations of apes have dominated humans. Remember how there was a whole ape society. Is the argument that Heston landed in the midst of the only ape civilization, let alone the one that originally started by Caesar. I don't like that. No. Not for me, thank you very much. But by making these origin stories time and again is that it shrinks the world to a point where it isn't a PLANET of the apes. It's a small district that was found by Charleton Heston.
The movie also really doesn't know what it wants to be. Caesar has had some pretty solid character development over the last three films. I like that he is the balance between the two worlds. He has embraced that he is ape and that he has the ability to lead. He is morally conflicted and that makes him really interesting. They even gave Caesar something to do in this movie. He is in a vulnerable place for this movie. This movie starts off as a great revenge film and I would have loved that. He keeps having these Koba flashbacks and that really sets up for a great movie. Admittedly, it would be a little bit of a rehash of the other movies, but I would have loved to see a revenge film with a monkey. But then it becomes a tracking movie. Sure, it is in the name revenge. But there's a lot of just looking around in the snow. And this is where the movie starts to fall apart. There's a lot of just looking around. He meets Nova, but it doesn't really change Caesar. Nova should be a central conflict for Caesar. He has just willed himself against the colonel, and more importantly, man. But that moral crisis is quite minor for Caesar when he interacts with Nova. Caesar should be questioning his own morality in this moment. I don't mind that he accepts Nova. Caesar is a good ma--monkey. He should see the difference between the colonel and Nova. But I want him to question his entire mission because of Nova. Instead of actually having Nova be a moment of character development, she is there as a nod to fans. There are so many beats that I feel have been covered, but there could have been a deep conflict within Caesar that got ignored. I don't need the "ape v. ape" theme again. That was covered and covered well. I get that apes fighting is interesting. There's a lot of that going on here. But that's not the central conflict. This movie goes from being about Caesar as a leader, to a revenge film, to a chase scene, to a prison escape movie and it doesn't do any of those well. Instead, it takes four plots and kind of just makes it boring. That's kind of a sin. You know what it doesn't actually do? It never really makes it a war. The closest I got was a prison escape movie.
There's also a "just because" moment that is pretty unforgivable. There's a moment that we all know is coming. Red Donkey and his change is pretty telegraphed throughout the film, but as an audience, we have to wonder what is the straw that breaks the camel's back. The answer is...nothing. It is a lightswitch moment. Red Donkey is part of an allegory that is pretty thin, so I won't go into the allegory too much, but I would like to say that Red Donkey is part of establishing such a bleak mood in this film that I can't ever really get past it. Matt Reeves made a dark movie. The whole trilogy is actually pretty dark, which is fine I guess. But at the end of the day, I'm watching a movie called The Planet of the Apes. I know that it is a sci-fi message movie. But it's supposed to be a good time as well. Thank God for Steve Zahn's Bad Ape because the movie desperately needs a laugh every once in a while. But really, it is almost like screaming into the void because the movie as a whole is pretty darn bleak. I'm grateful for every moment that Bad Ape is in the film because for a whole second, I get to experience not misery. I like bleak stuff and I like misery, but this movie takes itself so darned seriously considering that it an ape v. human war movie. Also, was the colonel right? I know that they painted Woody Harrelson's Colonel as a crazy pants jerk, but some of the things that condemn him make a bit of sense. If we're all dying of a horrible disease, shouldn't we do everything that we could to save the human race? Yes, he takes it way too far, but Caesar's judging him before the evil stuff shows up. I don't know why the Colonel had to do the evil stuff. That seemed thrown in there just to ensure that you knew that he was the bad guy. I just wish that they made him more sympathetic. But I'm sure it is hard enough to sell a movie where the audience watching the film was the bad guy, let alone in your big summer blockbuster tentpole film.
I spent a lot of time crapping on this movie. It's not terrible. It is just a movie filled with missteps that unfortunately make a movie that should be very exciting remarkably boring. Boring might be a death knell for The Planet of the Apes franchise because they should be preachy, but fun at the same time. I don't want to watch hours of apes tracking people in the snow as clues to the future franchise is dropped. Also, does anyone really care about the old Planet of the Apes enough to be dropping clues to how it plays out anymore? No, we get it. Just tell a good story and have the apes in change by now.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.