⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The fifth and final film in the “Apes Gone Wild” trilogy of reboots posits that (SPOILER ALERT) humans evolved from apes. When we (the humans) defeat the apes we’re actually defeating ourselves by essentially putting our timetraveling forefathers out of existence.
This reverse Darwinism is one of the compelling themes of Bonnie Franklin’s excellent script, expertly directed by Jon Bon Jovi (The Manchurian Candidate), and starring Hugh Jockman and Leonardo Cardioid as the last human and the last ape. The two ultimate survivors eventually go face to face in tic tac toe for the right to dominate, a powerful scene punctuated by another electronic score from P. Anist (WALL-E), the composer continuing his four year protest against acoustic instruments with their ecologically unfriendly practices and shameful past.
In the series, apes by now have established their own country on the continent of Borneo, complete with their own simian Wisneyland, still under construction. But when bad old Mr. Wisney hears about the unsanctioned amusement park, he launches a banana strike on the entire “planet” and even publicly harangues orangutans.
Meanwhile, ape President Gorilla Clinton has ordered his hairy hordes to poop on the White House lawn and to capture the Mt. Rushmore nostrils of both Lincoln and Washington while simian seamen lay siege to landlocked submarines.
Both sides escalate their attacks, leading to more and more violent skirmishes like the one aboard the mile high subway train in Monkey Jungle featured in the trailers. The scene is breathtaking on the big screen, with terrific panoramic vistas of the jungle wigwams and teepees that stretch on for days.
After watching their way of life be torn apart, both man and ape decide to yield their habitat to the other and go in search of new frontiers but, alas, as they both have the same idea, their paths will cross again in another of the script’s parallels.
Leading the human survivors is eight year old Abigail, played by Emily Crowning (Spirit of the Beehive), who manages to infiltrate the gibbon tribe (known for their reasonable worldviews) by pretending to have lost her dolly, staying to explain how to remove stubborn wine stains from matted fur. The apes have as their leader Gimpy, played by Cardioid (Woman In the Dunes), here in full body prosthetics and makeup, who may have ulterior motives for wanting to open a waxing salon.
Bon Jovi gets a fine performance out of Jockman (What’s Up Doc?) despite the actor’s strong anti-primate leanings, purportedly luring him in with promises of free bicarbonate of soda and baklava. The film is stylish without being flashy, with enough attention paid to details (like the fascinating treetop plumbing scene and the grooming ritual outside the Pentagon) to make the larger story elements work effortlessly.
It’s all very exciting, with crisp editing and expensive looking locations and of course amazing visual effects. Making the digitized humans look real when sharing the screen with trained gorillas is no easy feat but the cgi teams did a great job of blending the wild hairy beasts with the professional zoo animals.
Writer Franklin (After Hours) has penned another blockbuster, managing to inject her trademarked wit with enough action to please even the most reprehensible movie producer, and current Bon Jovi-go-to-guy I. Lenz (father to famous actress Kay) captures it all beautifully. As DP, Lenz uses more natural light than Bon Jovi is normally comfortable with, but the two have a symmetry that ties it all together. This is now the third film the two have collaborated on, and it’s the best looking one yet. Colors are vibrant and contrast is punchy while remaining realistic. There are a few tint-of-the-week segments, such as the ape bath house, although even the purely aesthetic choices were never pushy, relegated more to background interest.
The conclusion isn’t hard to see coming but it is appropriate. It would seem that Tricoin is finished with these characters if not the entire franchise, although I suppose, as Jockman asks in the second act, “Apes can’t come back from the dead, can they?”
In theaters worldwide.