Besides delivering amazing special effects and a solid plot, Planet of the Apes deals with themes of war, peace, fear and mercy, all of which make for a great faith conversation with teens.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
I love a good, entertaining movie with a message, and War for the Planet of the Apes was all of that. The CGI was amazing. An exciting, deep, tear-jerking (if you’re a big crybaby like I am) experience, this movie was well worth the price of admission. It’s the third movie in the latest Planet of the Apes series, the first two of which I didn’t see. It didn’t matter. The script does a great job of catching you up and following along.
Is it appropriate for your kids?
War for the Planet of the Apes was rated PG-13 and that was a good call. Being a war movie, it was very violent, but not gory, it was intense and suspenseful, and full of serious themes.There was no sexual content, and maybe there was one curse word. I highly recommend it for teens and adults, but not little kids.
Caution: Contains spoilers.
In the previous two movies, scientists attempting to make a cure for Alzheimer’s disease developed a drug that proved dangerous to humans, but great for the apes that they tested it on. They named the condition “simian flu” and tried to wipe out the apes to try and stop the spreading of the disease. The war between the two species went on for some time before the ape who was fueling it was killed by Caesar, a peace-loving ape who just wants to protect his clan from destruction.
In the current movie, Caesar and his clan are being hunted by a rogue military unit called “Alpha-Omega” which is run by an insane Colonel with a God complex. His mission is not only to destroy the apes (which seems to be the common goal of most humans), but also to kill any humans he comes across who are affected by the simian flu—including his own son.
Caesar plans to take his group to a safe place where they can live without the threat of destruction, but before they leave, they are betrayed by one of the apes of his clan. Alpha-Omega are made aware of their location and come to kill Caesar. They kill his wife and son instead. Caesar sends his group out to find their new home while he and a few friends go to get revenge on the Colonel. On their way, they come across a little girl who can’t talk because she has been exposed to the flu.
Unable to leave the little girl to die alone, they adopt her into their party.
Meanwhile, Alpha-Omega discovers the migrating ape family group and takes them to a detention center, where they are forced to work as slave laborers building a defensive wall. Some are beaten, killed, or crucified outside the camp.
Caesar and his crew, along with a zoo chimp who provides comic relief, manage to save the enslaved apes and destroy the camp. They find their new home and start over.
Some Themes for Discussion
- Caesar wanted peace for his clan, but met an unbending resistance in people who were fueled by fear. The humans were shown mercy by the apes, but showed none in return. How does fear prevent us from responding to our circumstances rationally?
- Caesar’s group regarded him with dignity and profound respect. They would follow him anywhere he asked them to go, and trusted him completely because he was fueled by justice. What Christ-like qualities do you see in Caesar and his leadership style?
- The Colonel’s men followed him because they would be killed if they didn’t. They could see that he was crazy, but were too afraid to go against him. The Colonel set himself up as a god—calling his unit Alpha-Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title for Christ), deciding who should live and who should die, making himself the ultimate judge of everyone he came across without any kind of mercy. How did that work against him? How did it ultimately cause his failure?
- Humanity’s being made in the image and likeness of God is rooted in our free will, capacity for love, and creativity and compassion. Who in this movie was most human (in that sense) to you? What makes us human? What actions cause us to risk losing our humanity, or make us less human?
- The indignity of slavery and terrors of war are illustrated clearly in this movie. What were some elements of war and slavery that you saw in the film? Why are they offensive to God and to humanity?
- Caesar and many of the other apes made sacrifices to protect and save the others. What were some sacrifices that you noticed? How did they affect the community?
- There were strong similarities in the movie to the story of the Exodus in Scripture. What were some moments in the movie that reminded you of Moses taking the people out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land?
- Caesar’s party that went after the Colonel showed compassion and mercy in their travels—to the little girl, the zoo monkey, humans. How did that ultimately help them to accomplish their goal?
- The Colonel said that we messed with Mother Nature, and now she was taking revenge on us. What are the repercussions for us when we take too many liberties with nature, or treat it with disrespect?