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REVIEW: What parents should know about ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

July 14th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: What parents should know about ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Caesar is like most other intelligent, genetically enhanced apes living in the forest. He just wants to be avoid all human contact.

Ah, if only those pesky humans would allow that.

Every time Caesar and his ape clan find a new home, soldiers from a renegade army – known as Alpha Omega—hunt them down. These human monsters even wear headgear with insignias proclaiming “monkey killer” and “bedtime for Bonzo.”

Caesar seems destined to live a life on the run. That is, until the Alpha Omega leader, known simply as the Colonel, invades the apes’ village and kills Caesar’s wife and oldest son. Suddenly, the quick-to-forgive Caesar wants revenge, and he sets out on horseback to find and kill the murderer.

It’s all part of War for the Planet of the Apes (PG-13), which opens this weekend and is the third installment in the popular science fiction franchise, following 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The movie is set in a dystopian world in which apes accidentally acquire intelligence thanks to a human drug that was intended to cure Alzheimer’s. That would be crazy enough, but a pandemic simultaneously wipes out most of the world’s human population. The pandemic then mutates and causes other people to grow mute. They become ape-like!

The question soon becomes: Who will rule the planet?

Andy Serkis gives us the voice of Caesar, Woody Harrelson plays the out-of-control Colonel, and Steve Zahn provides the voice for a good ape who calls himself “Bad Ape.”

War for the Planet of the Apes is set 15 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In the newest film, Caesar does find where Colonel is hiding out, but it’s a heavily armed fortress that has been turned into a labor prison camp for genetically enhanced apes.

That’s the plot. Here’s what families need to know:    

Warning: minor spoilers!

Violence/Disturbing Images: Extreme. The movie begins with a battle in which apes are shot and bodies fly through the air. Explosions are common. Apes shoot and violently beat humans. An ape suffocates another ape to death. A human commits suicide off-screen. We see three bloodied human bodies on the side of a snowy road. Apes are whipped in the labor camp. Apes fight one another. A violent battle scene ends the film.   

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity: None. Unless you count ape “nudity.”  

Coarse Language: Minimal, although the words aren’t tame. I counted four coarse words: JC (1), misuse of God (1), GD (1) and h-ll (1).

Christian Images/Dialogue: Nothing explicit, but it’s worth noting that Colonel speaks of a “holy war” between the humans and apes. He even uses Christ-like language when he says he had to “sacrifice” his “own son so humanity could be saved”—a reference to a son who was killed because he had the pandemic. Colonel, though, is far from Christ-like.

Life Lessons

Caesar, the movie’s protagonist, provides several lessons on forgiveness and grace. When he has a chance to kill four human soldiers who were caught in battle, he instead sends them back to Colonel with a pro-peace message. When the apes find a young human girl whose father was killed, Caesar and another ape agree to watch over her. Still, Caesar isn’t perfect, and in one instance he does kill someone.


The apes are the good guys—loving, gentle and slow to anger. The humans are the bad guys—filled with rage, a lust for domination and a desire for war. On its own, War for the Planet of the Apes has a problematic worldview by affirming the evolutionary belief that humans and apes are cousins; with a few genetic tweaks, we could switch roles. The Colonel even warns that if the humans lose the war, they’ll become “cattle” to the apes.   

When viewed in the context of the entire film series, though, the story can become a cautionary tale about man’s depravity (and also the scientific world’s lack of ethical boundaries). In other words, are we already acting like apes?  

Scripture teaches that humans are the pinnacle of creation and are to be caretakers of Earth. If only the humans in this make-believe world had affirmed that.


This one is too violent for little ones, but for teens, it’s mostly family-friendly.

Movie Partners

For kids, Red Robin is the most well-known partner.

What I Liked

Bad Ape, who once was a zoo animal, provides some much-needed color and humor in the second half of the movie. I hope he’s back for the fourth film in the franchise. 

What I Didn’t Like

This movie’s not for people who haven’t watched the first two films. It’s also not for moviegoers who hate reading subtitles. There’s a lot of them (used for the apes who speak sign language). At times—with little human dialogue—the movie moves at a snail’s pace.     

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

It’s not great, but it’s not awful, either. It narrowly gets a thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

1. Mainstream science teaches that humans and apes are close relatives. Does that fit within a biblical framework?

2. Could you have forgiven others, like Caesar did?

3. Do movies like these change the way you view real-life apes and animals? Should they?     

4. From your perspective, what is the main theme of the movie?

War for the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.