By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT’S WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES ABOUT?
After a human-engineered virus wipes out millions of people and makes apes super-intelligent, desperate soldiers rage war on peaceful primates who just want to be left alone. (You can pre-order the film and the trilogy box set now).
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A)
Making a compelling argument that what story one tells matters less than how one tells it, this modern Planet of the Apes trilogy rose above expectations of sci-fi camp to tell one of the smartest (and most hauntingly beautiful) cinematic tales of the decade. Director Matt Reeves (who also directed the previous film) creates here a bittersweet-yet-uplifting tale of compassion, courage, and humanity against a backdrop of horrible cruelty.
The story is fantastical, but the parallels with current issues such as the treatment of refugees and prisoners-of-war, allowing fear to rob us of decency, and protecting one’s family are evocative. The screenplay develops characters rich with motivation while offering some genuine surprises. Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar for his motion-capture performance, Woody Harrelson makes for a compelling antagonist, and Michael Giacchino’s score is one of the best I’ve heard in years. Prepare to be thrilled, heartbroken, and inspired.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
War for the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13. There is one use of “GD” and 3-4 mild profanities. A man is seen shirtless. There are no f-words, sexuality, or nudity. The rating is largely for violence and brutality relating to warfare, with humans and apes killed by bullets and arrows (with some blood) and harsh prisoner-of-war camp conditions including forced labor, whippings, starvation, and keeping children from their parents. Apes throw excrement at their captors.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Warfare is justified if one is protecting one’s family and freedom. Show mercy to your enemies; use force only when there is no other option. The greatest love is to be willing to die for those you love. There is no peace in vengeance. Show love and acceptance to those who are different than you. There are people and beings who are suffering; do all you can to help.
If your family is looking for more ape action you can’t go wrong with the original King Kong. Rent or buy here.