By Jim Tortolano
I have to be honest with you, I fell asleep for about 20 minutes during the first hour of “War for the Planet of the Apes” film, and according to Marilyn, I didn’t miss much. That’s the principal problem with this prequel to the “Apes” series: about 10 minutes of plot and the rest of it is rather clever CGI.
This is part of the hairy backstory of how Charlton Heston ended up on that beach with the metal torch of the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand. A genetic mutation gets out of a lab and makes apes smart and most humans dumb. We catch up with the tale with soldiers trying to hunt down the gorilla leader Caesar, voiced by Andy Serkis.
Battles ensue. People and apes die. There are long stretches with no dialogue (zzzzzz . . . ) because most of the animals communicate only through sign language and the only human in their company is a mute girl (Amiah Miller ).
The principal antagonist is The Colonel, played with relish and, frankly, a bit too much hot dog, by Woody Harrelson. His role channels that of Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” a similarity echoed by a bit of graffiti reading “Ape-ocalypse Now.”
Caesar gets captured by the Colonel’s minions and things go downhill from there. The simians are hoping to escape to an unidentified ape paradise which is apparently within walking distance, while the Colonel prepares his isolated base for an assault by some folks who take exception to his over-the-top methods.
Other critics have found much to praise in the subtlety of the computer animation, and yes, these apes do frown, sigh and look askance. But those improvements in the world of digital cinema are not nearly strong enough to carry two hours of this stuff.
There are also some major plot holes in this screenplay by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves (who also directs). The great apes depicted in this film are native to Africa and Southeast Asia, so why are throngs of them roaming around what appears to be Colorado, with snow, pine trees and such? And why would animals that eat a lot of fruit want to travel to an arid desert area to make their new home?
I wonder if this is not simply a case of writers not willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes, or – in this case – the naked apes have no loins. And not much of a story, either.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is rated PG-13 for violence.
Categories: Arts & Leisure