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A battle for survival: 'Planet of the Apes' saga continues

Jochen Kürten als
July 11, 2017

It's a blockbuster summer. Following a series of super hero films, now the latest of the "Planet of the Apes" series hits theaters this week. "War for the Planet of the Apes" is surprisingly dramatic and emotional.

Film Still "War For The Planet Of The Apes"
Image: 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

Are apes the better human beings? Or, put differently, are there good and evil members of every species? Even the original "Planet of the Apes" film addressed these questions back in 1968: questions of morality and ethics, humanity and the justifiable boundaries of science and research.

Ape saga is both deep and imaginative

That has always been the chief attraction of the series — even though it was not envisioned as a series from the start. Other films only followed because the first one was such a success. Hollywood has always been good at copying the recipe of films that prove to be successful. But contrary to many film sequels of blockbusters that add little to the original, the "Planet of the Apes" series has been multifaceted and imaginative.

Film Still (War For The Planet Of The Apes)
War has taken its toll on CeasarImage: 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

In the original action and fantasy film, questions about the meaning of life and thoughts about the future were pondered and the relationship between humans and animals was considered. That human beings did not necessarily get higher marks than apes was only one surprising insight that viewers could gain watching all of films.

One of the most memorable film images of the 1960s

The final scene at the end of the original film in 1968 has remained imprinted in many people's minds until today: Taylor (Charlton Heston) rides horseback with a little girl, Nova, along a beach and comes across the remains of the Statue of Liberty. That they had been on an Earth devastated by nuclear war the whole time was a shocking revelation not only for Taylor, but for the entire viewing audience.

Film Still "War For The Planet Of The Apes"
Not an anomaly: apes with gunsImage: 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

Surprisingly, the concept of the films remains fresh and contemporary to this day, and has lost little of its initial attraction. Even this ninth film of the saga based on a novel by French author Pierre Boulle offers a good balance of philosophy and action to both entertain the audience and provide food for thought.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" opens Tuesday in Great Britain and Ireland and then around the world in the following days, including a July 14 release in the US.

Intelligent cinema entertainment

Contrary to the many blockbusters that spend lots of production money to keep viewers around the world on the edge of their seats using repetitive effects, the "Planet of the Apes" saga offers much to ponder, but without being patronizing.

On the other hand, it's not as though the professional camera people, the special effects technicians, and the make-up artists weren't in top form either.

Film Still "War For The Planet Of The Apes"
Just before the decisive battle in "War for the Planet of the Apes"Image: 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

The images are spectacular, the effects are fantastic, and the apes, which are mostly played by actors, make the actors not wearing masks generally look old. Star Andy Serkis, who has had plenty of opportunity to don animal costumes - playing Gollum in "Lord of the Rings" and Kong in "King Kong" - is once again convincing in "Planet of the Apes" as passionate leader of the apes, Caesar.

Caesar, the ape - a nuanced film character

Caesar clearly stands front and center in the story line as an ape that gives things a lot of thought. He is torn between thoughts of revenge and the desire for peace, between feelings of brutality and tenderness. He is a film character who has been given fine nuances by his writers.

And Brit Andy Servis does a superb job of playing him. Viewers suffer along with him, altering between feelings of sympathy, anger and compassion. It's as surprising as it is impressive since we only see the face of an ape with, other than the eyes, the human features of actor Serkin completely masked by the costume.