“I always think… ape better than human. I see now… how much like them we are.”
After the magnificent “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from 2011, Caesar the legendary ape who started the revolution for his species, can show up again in this sequel. It’s 10 years later and the world has been decimated thanks to the Simian virus. This flu originated from a genetically engineered virus and ensured that the apes became systematically wiser. The magisterial beginning shows Caesar in close-up and from there it’s a run-up to an amazing first 20 minutes in which no human is seen and we witness the ins and outs of the apes commune, who communicate by use of a kind of sign language. They have retreated into a mountainous forest near San Francisco, where they have formed a primitive society with Caesar as the absolute leader. They lead a peaceful existence, not aware of the fact that humanity has survived the pandemic. Until such underdeveloped biped turns up one day and immediately shoots an ape at first sight. And that’s the beginning of a very interesting struggle for power between two different cultures with survival instinct, self-preservation and demarcating the territory as a central issue. Eventually you start to wonder who really are the primates.
Is it necessary to see this movie in less than no time because of the original story with surprising twists? Nope, not at all. It’s not really that exciting and even a normal chimpanzee can predict the outcome. But, it’s the amazing design of the apes and the sometimes real human actions and emotional traits that they show. Probably the fact that the actors are “motion captured” has something to do with it, but it’s still breathtaking to watch. At certain moments the CGI wasn’t quite correct. Especially the fragments of the horse riding apes. You can notice sometimes that these were computer animations. But that’s really nitpicking. The Most part looked lifelike and one can only conclude that the authentic episodes of “Planet of the Apes” from the 60’s were irrefutable populated by costumed actors.
The final confrontation between humans and apes, with Caesar, again played by Andy Serkis (who formerly also performed as Gollum in TLotR), and Malcolm (Jason Clarke) as the two righteous leaders of the two parties, is of course inevitable. Clearly a sociopolitical theme was ingeniously woven throughout the cheap, ordinary Hollywood entertainment. The mutual distrust with revenge as the cause for the sneaky tricks and treachery. One group is pissed off because the apes are supposedly the origin of the extermination of mankind. The other group is unnerved by the years of abuse in laboratories and a doomed life in captivity. The result, of course is a clash with also some internal feuds and conflicts.
Unfortunately after several memorable and downright masterful film clips, we’re treated with some ordinary, cheap action movie scenes. A kind of “Expendables meets The A-Team” with heroically swinging of automatic rifles, rockets whizzing around the ears as if the third world war just began and even a tank broke loose. Next to that a big can of sentimentality is pulled open quickly leading to an engaging conversation between Caesar and his son. And then the curtain falls across this magnificent epos with a picture of a real Messiah who parades among his followers. An open end that yearns for an overwhelming third part. But beyond this kitschy final offensive you can admire a few cinematic gems like the appearing of the apes colony in the big city, where they speak to the crowd in an admonishing tone. You could feel the consternation of the crowd after hearing the first words of Caesar. And also the magnificent mimicry Koba used at one time to deceive two armed men. A moment where CGI and facial expressions blend effortlessly. Yes, that’s the reason why you should watch this movie.