At the Movies with Brian Novak

War for the Planet of the Apes: Review

26 May 2021

I have lovely memories associated with this film, so I hope I don’t sound dramatic when I say it’s the greatest work of art in the history of cinema. I concede this is a bold statement, but my reasoning is sound. Matt Reeves’ stunning science-fiction epic, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), is complemented with exquisite performances by the film’s leads in Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn. From the humorous depiction of a monkey riding a horse (so silly!), to the epic battle cry “APES TOGETHER STRONG!”, I was simply blown away. Remarkably, much of the film consists of CGI, and I like to interpret this as a correlative for love in the way emotions can be superimposed onto ordinary life and substantially heighten the experience. Coincidently, it was also the film I took Millicent to see on our first date. It was a blind date, set up by my mother through family friends. Millie had her hair done and there were bits of mascara in her eyelashes. I was in a bad place at the time, like a cumquat in a cherry bush. I wasn’t fitting in at my new job, and I thought I was doomed to a lifetime of being misunderstood. But the moment I saw Millie, I knew everything was going to be okay. Her first words to me were: “so you know the big screen is probably the sun for the little creatures that live in the carpet of the cinema?” She’s not the most articulate woman, but she’s completely turned my life around.

War’s love/CGI metaphor is further accentuated by the romantic subplot between Caesar and Cornelia, but even that doesn’t compare to the passion between me and Millicent. She’s the love of my life—the first face I want to see in the morning and last I want to see at night. She’s a perfect specimen who I know was made for me. We’ve never had a single disagreement, uncomfortable moment or fight. You may be wondering how long fingernails compromise my ability to perform the intimate duties of a boyfriend. We struggled in the early days. I’d often scratch various parts of her body, quite by mistake. Let me assure you we’ve figured it out. Essentially, I lie there like the Vitruvian Man with an erection, and she potters about doing whatever she wants with me. We often joke about having Leonardo da Vinci sex.

So, what of this aphrodisiacal smorgasbord of CGI monkeys and witty dialogue? David Foster Wallace once cynically compared ‘special effects’ to pornography, suggesting they’re a quick hit of serotonin with no substance. If he were alive today, and if he ever knew how awesome kinky sex was, he’d agree this was an oversimplification. Not only does War look spectacular, but it also concludes the franchise by answering every question we have about the narrative. Don’t even get me started on lazy films that expect us to answer their questions. Coincidentally, I saw War around the same time I made the decision to grow long fingernails, which led me to discovering Enamemates. Perhaps it was partly to impress Millicent in those early stages of the relationship. She told me she was exceptionally good at Tetris, and I realised I didn’t have anything impressive to share about myself. Millicent thought my dream of growing the world’s longest fingernails was a quirky idea. In the office, however, I was met with confused expressions and feigned enthusiasm. I didn’t have much to support my reasoning back then. But now I always tell people the beauty of growing the world’s longest fingernails is that you don’t have to do anything. You know your nails are growing every idle moment spent sitting, eating or even sleeping. Each morning you feel accomplished. It’s rather fitting for a reviewer, as you feel progress while watching films!

I guess it goes back to my schooldays when I’d feel elated whenever we got to watch a movie. It might surprise you that I wasn’t the most popular child. I had a slight lisp and wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. There was a boy named George who took great delight in mimicking my voice. I tried to embrace the mentality that mockery is a form of flattery, but it still hurt. I needed an escape. Just the sight of the old bulky television on the squeaky trolley was enough to perk me up, and every second we watched was a second I didn’t have to think about feeling so lonely. But meeting Millicent gave me the confidence to be proud of my eccentricities in a way that didn’t make me feel isolated. She’s literally fixed me, the same way Caesar fixed a broken weapon in a deleted scene. And now when I see people avoiding me, I realise it’s no longer because of my own shortcomings (Millicent fixed those), but because of my nails! It’s good to have them as reassurance. Not that I need them anyway because I’ve got Millicent and Enamemates by my side. Chris, who founded the long-fingernail group, has been a spectacular friend. Curiously, he has an eidetic memory, and is an avid collector of names. Of everyone he’s met, I’m the ninth Brian. He sometimes calls me Brian-Nine. His collection includes fictional characters, and I’ve been told he keeps us all in jars in the basement of his frontal lobe and visits us at night. I’d never been good at socialising, yet suddenly I had a girlfriend and a close group of friends, and it all started with this very film. I think that’s the true message of War. Humans and monkeys might be fighting with each other, but all they want, deep down, is love. It makes everything better. A thoroughly delightful film.

Five stars.

“At the Movies with Brian Novak” is a movie review column by the fictitious Brian Novak, otherwise known as the real James Gordon.


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