War for the Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis is promising a Caesar who acts on his darkest desires for revenge. The third installment in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise concerns a dystopian planet wracked by ongoing battles between humans and apes. Forced into a war against the humans and their ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) that he did not ask for, Caesar essentially abandons his quest to help humans and apes coexist in order to defend his species against the war that will shape the future of them and the planet.
Caesar has certainly evolved in ways that you’d expect from a highly advanced ape, but he’s also evolved as a character over the course of the past two films. He begins the third as the patriarch of his own family and the undisputed leader of the ape civilization. As he witnesses death and destruction at the hands of the human armies in War for the Planet of the Apes, though, Caesar begins to grapple with his darkest instincts that he spent most of the previous two films resisting. Serkis has played the character of Caesar through motion-capture throughout the life of the rebooted franchise, but he never quite portrayed an ape as human as you’ll see in War.
Director Matt Reeves teased Caesar’s tale of revenge in a new interview with EW, describing an ape leader that changes dramatically in the face of his species’ brutal conflict:
“It finally cracks Caesar. It sets him on a revenge mission. The movie goes from being this grand war movie to an almost Josey Wales-like Western.”
Serkis playfully described his constantly evolving portrayal of Caesar throughout the trilogy as “Boyhood, but for apes“. According to EW the film will open with a massive battle scene pitting humans against apes in a snowy forest, a sequence that has been teased in the trailers and is the focus of a new image (see above). Though the Colonel’s human army will ostensibly show the apes no mercy, Serkis says both sides are ultimately fighting for the same thing:
“The Colonel comes across as someone who’s psychotic. But he is fighting for the survival of humanity, as Caesar is fighting for the apes.”
The entire rebooted Planet of the Apes series has been building toward the climactic battle between species, with significantly more apes than before. It’s unclear which specific event sets Caesar’s “revenge mission” in motion, but it’s quite possible that he will be avenging the death of a close family member. Regardless, this arc makes it clear that Reeves has not lost sight of the depth and humanity that has made the new ape characters so compelling in the first place.
War for the Planet of the Apes promises to be the biggest, most action-packed installment of the franchise to date. It’s important, then, that Reeves makes sure the human characters are still as three-dimensional as the apes and as complex as Harrelson’s Colonel and the rest of the humans from previous installments.