This most recent installment (Apes III) of the reborn Planet of the Apes movie series is a mess. As much as I would like to recommend it, I can’t.
Through the years, I’ve observed three of the four varieties of great apes in the wild (the exception being the bonobos). And I was awed with each encounter, particularly the gorillas. This drew me to Planet of the Apes I, which I enjoyed immensely. Planet of Apes II, not so much.
III is a simian adaption of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. And it doesn’t come close to measuring up to either. There are also scenes in Apes III that are reminiscent of the fifth installment in the original series Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
The movie’s score is over-the-top melodramatic–overwrought–and unnecessarily distracting. The casting of Woody Harrelson as the heavy (think Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse) is an embarrassing and needlessly distracting faux pas. When Woody delivers his soliloquy during the heart of the movie, it is hard not to laugh. He is a poor comparison to Marlon Brando.
Years ago in the Barcelona Zoo, I observed Snowflake the white albino gorilla. At the time, he was the main attraction at the zoo. It was eerie watching him (while he observed us). In the movie there is white gorilla named Winter. He turns out to be a traitor. From a personal point of view, this was a major disappointment. Snowflake deserves better; he served the zoo well.
Speaking of gorillas, they get a bad rap in this movie. They are the militant, dough-headed enforcers. And all too frequently the traitors. In the wild, gorillas are anything but militant. They are herbivores (they do eat insects) and rather docile animals, they spend most of their waking hours eating leaves, nuts, and berries. I spent an hour in close proximity to a group of 14 in the wilds of Uganda. Their size is intimidating but not their demeanor.
In Apes III, Caesar, the chimp leader of the great ape menage, heads out on his own to seek revenge. He is soon joined by an orangutan, a bonobo, and a gorilla. And to add to the mix, they soon pick up a mute young girl; she functions as their muse. This all seems a little like a forced effort at diversity.
A “successful” movie must have a cutesy animal or cartoon character. In Apes III, it’s an elderly balding chimp, who’s been living like a hermit. He is dragged into the war and provides the required cutesy moments. As far as the script/plot goes, he is half chimp and half ET. By being old, the chimp is made to look more like ET.
The simulated apes in the movie are quite impressive, particularly when in close up. They appear so realistic that at times I almost felt they were real. This is do the incredible work of costumers, makeup artist, and the actors, particularly Andy Serkis. And much of the cinematograhy is gorgeous and many of the special affects are impressive, particularly the avalanche. Too bad the dialogue, direction, and editing aren’t up to the technical support.
Unfortunately, scene after scene of Apes III is overdrawn and much of the dialogue is far too wordy. We get it already: Apes are good, humans are bad. And the movie in its present form is far too long. Re-watch Apes I, it is good entertainment, and not nearly so ponderous and pretentious.
And please commit to help saving the few great apes that still exist on the earth. Their habitat is rapid disappearing.