SPOILERS AHEAD FOR PLANET OF THE APES!
Here is my spoiler free review of War for the Planet of the Apes: https://adampadillablog.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-review/
The most recent Planet of the Apes series has finally become a trilogy with its latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes. These films, although set in the war between a dying mankind and the forever evolving apes, is very much Caesar’s story. However, as we see from the final, heartbreaking, moments of War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar dies. At face value, Caesar dies from wounds he sustained in battle, but I believe the way he recieved these wounds gives deeper meaning into this story and the future of the franchise.
A running theme in both Rise and Dawn is Caesar’s relationship with humans. He always maintained that killing was wrong and only fought when necessary to protect apekind. The antagonist of Dawn was Koba, whose philosophy was far different to that of Caesar’s. Koba endured a life of “torture” at the hands of humans and believed they should pay for their actions. Caesar on the other hand, just wants peace at all costs and lets his love for humans (mostly the character of Will from Rise) create an enemy of Koba.
Koba believes apes to now be the apex beings of earth and should inherit it by getting rid of the humans – this is the next step in evolution of the apes and would follow the natural order of things. Koba’s primitive philosophies see the humans as a weaker enemy and therefore possible and necessary to wipe out. Caesar however, believes that the two can coexist; one does not necessarily have to outlive the other in all out war for dominance. However, by the end of Dawn we see that mother nature has her way and War will occur between the apes and the humans.
Following on from this, we see Caesar still seeking peace at the start of War. He sends back a captured soldier back to his leader with the intended message of seeking peace. The soldier he sent was there to kill him, but Caesar’s mercy and lack of bloodlust results in this soldier having his life spared. Then in the 3rd act of War we see that same soldier peirce Caesar with a crossbow arrow, before meeting his demise. Caesar manages to lead the apes to their sought after utopia, but does end up dying of his wounds.
These two events coalescing shows that the world naturally wants the apes to surpass the humans by evolution. They have been wiped out by the simian flu and apes are now the dominant species. This is something that cannot happen whilst Caesar is alive, as he still lives (in his mind) in a world were humans and apes could live side by side. Therefore, it is poetically his compassion for humans that kills him. He saw his doctrines through to the very end of his days. Although this philosophy could not coexist with the world they are faced with, his ideals will be passed on through the resulting generations of apes, in order for them to live in a civilized way, with rules (ie. ‘Ape no kill ape’).
This means that Caesar’s story has come to an end, but as made clear by director Matt Reeves, the apes’ story has not. He described a void between where War ends and were the 1968 original begins. There are references to the original, in War, with the second, mutated strain of the virus taking the voices of humans and regressing them into a primitive state. This ties into the original film having human slaves that didn’t speak. Whether or not we get to this point with these films, the implication is that there are stories to be told in the in between.
This new set of films will have to take the series in a completely different direction with the death of Caesar as the apes will now follow a new leader, with new morals, leading them into new conflicts. Ultimately, I think that War had the perfect ending to the ‘Caesar trilogy’ and his death was more than just an attempt to leave the audience emotional at the end. I look forward to where Reeves intends on taking this franchise!