Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MY REVIEW OF The War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes, rated PG-13
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Final Film in the “Caesar Trilogy” Raises Questions about the Message.

**SPOILER WARNING!**

In the final film in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, “The Colonel”, played by two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson, raids the camp of the apes. During the raid, the wife and eldest son of Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), the leader of the apes, is killed. This leads Caesar, to seek revenge.  The movie follows Caesar, and a few of those closest to him, as they start on a long journey that will lead them to the human camp and the Colonel’s highly trained soldiers. Along the way they meet Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), the lone survivor from a zoo, and a young mute girl, who they name Nova (Amiah Miller).
As David Sims states in his review of the film in The Atlantic, “In Dawn, the story’s darkness made more sense because there were heroes and villains on both sides of the human-ape divide; in War, we’re just watching the final death throes of our own species.” The Colonel (and the humans in general) are portrayed as the villains in this film, while the apes are insistently shown to be the ones with compassion. We see the Colonel using apes, they call donkeys, as slave labor to build a defensive wall in the camp. The group that the Colonel leads is Alpha and Omega, which according to the writer, is a reference to the bomb the mutants worshiped in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. (Jesus Christ also referred to Himself as The Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.)  The Colonel wraps himself in a perverse distortion of both nationalist and religious symbolism.  We also see graffiti reading “APE-OCALYPSE NOW”, pointing out the similarities of the Colonel to Marlon Brando’s character Colonel Kurtz in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.  
The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who also directed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film is written by Reeves with Mark Bomback and had a budget of approximately $150 million. Since its release, the film has already made in excess of $133 million in the U.S. alone. The CGI (computer generated imagery) used in the film is amazing. Kudos also go to cinematographer Michael Seresin (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and composer Michael Giacchino for the film’s soundtrack.
Steve Zahn is a welcome newcomer and provides some comedic relief as the likeable Bad Ape. Terry Notary returns as Rocket, a chimp who is now one of Caesar’s most trusted followers. Karin Konoval also returns as Maurice, an orangutan that is another of Caesar’s most faithful advisors.
The film contains a lot of references to the Bible. What they are intended to mean is another question for discerning viewers. For example, Caesar is the ape “savior”, and there are points in the film when there are clear comparisons of him with Jesus. Caesar frees the apes from being slaves, is flogged and hangs on a cross.  He guides the apes to a new “promised land” but dies before entering it, which certainly brings to mind Moses. The Colonel says that he sacrificed his son to save humankind. He wears a crucifix and there is one displayed in his office. We see him make a Catholic sign of the cross over his men in a ‘blessing’. Are the filmmakers mocking Christianity?
Andy Serkies is amazing as Caesar, who has clearly aged by the time we get to this film.  There is some talk of him receiving an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the conflicted (revenge or mercy?) leader of the apes.
Themes in the film include war, hatred, family, self-sacrifice, bravery, revenge and mercy.  It is worth seeing for amazing CGI, great acting and cinematography; just be mindful of the worldview presented.
The film definitely went too long and moved along very slowly. It could have definitely been shortened 45 minutes from its 140- minute running time.


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Movie Review ~ Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2Now You See Me 2
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The sequel to the 2013 film Now You See Me finds the Four Horsemen – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), (who replaces Isla Fisher’s Henley Reeves from the first film as Fisher was pregnant when the film was being made)  laying low a year after their Robin Hood-style heist. The “Fifth Horseman”, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) gets direction for the Horsemen from the mysterious The Eye organization, while pretending to his FBI bosses to be trying to bring in the Horsemen, to the doubts of some in the organization.

The Horsemen plan to come out of hiding at the launch of a new mobile phone that will be able to steal the privacy of those who use it. Instead, a trick is played on them, and they end up in Macau, China, “the Las Vegas of China”, having been kidnapped by billionaire Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who the public assumes has been dead for a year. Mabry needs them to use their skills to steal a priceless computer circuit known as “the stick”, which can de-encrypt any computer on the planet, for him.  Merritt’s irritating twin brother, also played by Harrelson, is out for revenge and is assisting Mabry.  To prepare for their assignment, the Horsemen visit the world’s oldest magic shop, run by Li (Jay Chou) and his mother Bu Bu (Tsai Chin).

The film centers on a thirty-year connection between magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and Rhodes, who Rhodes put in prison at the end of the last film. Michael Caine, the group’s patron in the first film, returns as billionaire Arthur Tressler.

The film contains much to enjoy, including the Macau and London locations, the dialogue and chemistry among the Horsemen and magical sleight of hand aided by excellent camera work and computer generated imagery (CGI). There is much going on in the film and it contains a lot of twists and turns. Like the best magic acts, things are not always as you think they are based on what you have seen with your eyes. There are certainly holes in the script, and I was particularly disappointed with the ending, but still found the film to be entertaining overall.

The film features a strong cast with two Oscar winners (Freeman and Caine) and three Oscar nominees (Eisenberg, Ruffalo and Harrelson). It is directed by Jon M. Chu (Louis Leterrier directed the first film), and is written by Ed Solomon, who also wrote the screenplay for the first film.

Content concerns include some adult language and some abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names.

We will see the Horsemen again, as Now You See Me 3 has been announced.