'War for the Planet of the Apes' Will Be A Biblical Tale Slash Badass Clint Eastwood Western

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 12:14PM
War for the Planet of the Apes
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 12:14PM
'War for the Planet of the Apes' Will Be A Biblical Tale Slash Badass Clint Eastwood Western
We never thought we'd feel empathy (let alone cheer for) the damn, dirty apes that left the Statue of Liberty as a beach-wrecked ruin. But that's the magic of the new Planet of the Apes movies—we get to see the whole saga from the beginning, including the rise of the amazingly complex ape Caesar. Hell, there was even a point where the director said Caesar would be a good candidate for President of the United States. So needless to say, we've been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes. The synopsis, which we got this past October, sounded awesome: Caesar going on a mythic quest of vengeance to decide the fate of the planet. But one thing we didn't anticipate was that this 'mythic quest' would be a mashup of a spaghetti Western and the Biblical story of Moses.

According to a Slashfilm interview with producers Dylan Clark and director Matt Reeves, the two took inspiration from many different movies (including Star Wars and the samurai movies of Toshiro Mifune), but they kept coming back to Westerns, especially the gritty persona of Clint Eastwood. According to Reeves:

Opening quote
...we watched Empire Strikes Back again and we were looking at like the way that movie had such spirit in it, and at the same time it was such a dark movie. I think that the way in which this story goes forward in this mythic way, Caesar is so wounded by what happens to his apes that he becomes almost like Clint Eastwood. He becomes a badass, and he loses this sense of empathy...[the movie] has all these Western influences. And actually, we did a lot of Western kind of stuff also in 'Dawn', too, you know, 'cause it's apes on horses. So those references have always been part of it.
Closing quote


Viewers who remember the horse-riding apes in the previous movie will be happy to see the horses return as Caesar and his posse head out on a cowboy-style ride to find their destiny, which will inevitably bring them into conflict with the surviving humans and the main villain, The Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson). In time, Caesar will apparently unite the apes and becomes the leader of his people, guiding them through their persecution and delivering them to a better future where—

All right, yeah, this is pretty much the story of Moses. And that's the intent, according to Reeves:

Opening quote
in 'War', we wanted to push him to this place where he would be pushed to extremes...And as a result, he'd be tested in a way that he would either fail or not fail, and it's what he does in this movie that in our minds, makes him the seminal figure in ape history. If somebody was tested in this way, if somebody was this central to the creation of the ape world in the human story, that person would be like a god. So that's how the whole idea of trying to create him as sort of a Biblical epic story.
Closing quote


So Caesar is not only a badass Clint Eastwood character, he's also an old-school Biblical prophet and the most important person in ape history. That's a lot of really intense thematic burdens to heap on one four-foot-tall simian in a movie based on what was essentially a big episode of The Twilight Zone. Still, this kind of creativity and unexpected depth is what won these movies such unexpected praise and excitement from viewers. Here's how Matt Reeves describes it:

Opening quote
The thing to me that's so exciting is, the original series, Planet of the Apes, when you see the first film, which is a great movie, it's like an amazing, mind-bending, Twilight Zone, right? That ending is a reveal, which is that they are on this planet and all along they've been back on Earth. Because we know that that's the ending, that it becomes Planet of the Apes, the cool thing about what was started in Rise is, that it's no longer about what happens. It's about how it happens. And stories about how are always about character and psychology.
Closing quote


Character-driven storytelling. Overarching themes about humanity and the dark side of science. Classical themes taken from older films. Apes with guns. We can't wait.

War for the Planet of the Apes hits US theaters on July 14th, 2017.
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War for the Planet of the Apes