10:20am PT by Graeme McMillan
Is 'War for the Planet of the Apes' the Ideal Film for Today's Political Climate?
Judging by the latest trailer, War for the Planet of the Apes might end up being the most political blockbuster of the year.
At a time when politics and pop culture are colliding in ways unlike any before, to the point where both the real-world movement against the U.S. president and the fictional organization fighting the bad guys in Star Wars: The Force Awakens have the same name, there's no mistaking the political undercurrent of the final trailer for the movie.
Perhaps it's merely more notable because the trailer unmistakably positions the Apes as the "good guys" — noble victims of an aggressive, hateful humanity. "Apes fight only to survive," Caesar (Andy Serkis) says in a monologue, just seconds after we've seen the apes take in a human child abandoned by her own kind. "She has no one else," Caesar says, underscoring the apes' capability for empathy; by the end of the trailer, we'll have seen him be insulted by Woody Harrelson's human Colonel for taking things "much too personally … so emotional," a line that in turn underscores how monstrous and, well, inhuman humanity is, by comparison.
No, that's hardly political, per se; it's just a way of getting the audience on the side of the apes. Instead, look at the larger narrative of an uprising against a fascistic enemy that uses bigoted rhetoric to motivate its troops. ("We will bring an end to their kind," indeed.) Look at Caesar jumping past an American flag on fire as he leaps into action, or almost quoting Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign slogan when he said, "Apes together … strong." Even the tagline — "Fight for the planet" — feels like it could have come from a slogan workshop from almost any particular political organization.
All of which is to say, it feels especially timely these days, making people find themselves particularly in favor of Caesar's hardline, "I did not start this war, but I will finish it." Yeah! You tell humanity, grim ape hero! (Let's ignore the fact that, you know, the apes win and then turn humanity into slaves. That just complicates the allegory a little too much.)
It's a smart way to bring new urgency to the Planet of the Apes franchise, which has at times seemed to be attempting to have the slowest build in cinema history (remember: This is the third movie in the rebooted series, and we've yet to actually make it to the titular planet), and also a way to place the film in a context that could interest those who have, until now, avoided the franchise for whatever reason.
Whether it's something that is actually present in the finished feature, of course, won't be known until it hits theaters on July 14. But if that movie includes a hastily reshot scene where Harrelson's character takes to Twitter every morning to rail against both the ape menace and the human press, we'll know that this is a case where the trailer successfully conveys a new direction for the series.