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Film / War for the Planet of the Apes

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"I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you're here to finish us off for good."
"All of human history has led to this moment. The irony is we created you, and nature has been punishing us ever since. This is our last stand, and if we lose, it will be a planet of apes."
Colonel McCullough

The second sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the third in the continuity started in that film, and directed once again by Matt Reeves after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Like the previous film, it takes influence from Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Following the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and his ape colony are embroiled in a battle with an army of humans. When the apes suffer heavy losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts as he resolves to avenge his kind. The battle puts Caesar against the humans' leader, Colonel McCullough, in an encounter that will determine the fate of their species and Earth's future.

The film was released on July 14th, 2017. Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Final Trailer.

There was a novelization released, as well as a prequel novel, War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations. A prequel comic book mini-series was released, and a standalone spin-off video game titled Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier was released in Fall 2017. Fall 2018 saw the release of Planet of the Apes: Caesar's Story, a novel recapping the first three films from Maurice's perspective and filling in some events in between.

A fourth film is in development from Wes Ball. Though initially reported as a reboot, Ball has confirmed that the movie will be a continuation of this series, focused on the story of Caesar's legacy. The sequel, titled Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, is set to be released on Memorial Day 2024.


War for the Planet of the Apes provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Despite the film's title being about the all-out war between apes and humans, the majority of the film is centered on intense, dramatic moments between characters, particularly between Caesar and McCullough.
  • Actor Allusion: The humans give the apes military-esque codenames, the two main names being "Donkeys" (apes that serve the humans) and "Kongs" (the apes led by Caesar). Caesar, being the apes' leader, is classified as "King Kong". McCullough is heard referring to Caesar as such after killing Blue Eyes and Cornelia.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Caesar is devastated when his desire for revenge against the Colonel leads him to abandon his fellow apes. Once the apes escape the prison camp, Caesar again abandons them to seek revenge against the Colonel.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Caesar is ready to kill the Colonel, but when he sees that the Colonel has succumbed to the mutated virus, the same one that infected, and forced him to kill, his son, he takes true pity on him. He refuses the Colonel's request to kill him, but watches sadly as the Colonel shoots himself.
  • And I Must Scream: All of mankind will eventually suffer this fate, according to the Colonel, which explains his paranoia as his group is what he believes will be the last surviving intelligent humans left. Later, he himself gets infected and unable to speak but at least he was given a chance to kill himself.
  • And Starring: "Introducing Amiah Miller". She plays Nova.
  • Anti-Climax: When the Northern army arrives to take down McCullough's force, Caesar instead of leaving with the other apes in the chaos decides to get his revenge on McCullough. When he gets there, he finds that the Colonel has been infected with the mutated virus and has already lost his ability to speak. Caesar isn't able to bring himself to kill the Colonel so the Colonel kills himself.
  • Anyone Can Die: This film pulls no punches with the deaths of major characters, including Blue Eyes, Cornelia, Winter, Spear, Luca, Red, every human character except Nova, and finally Caesar.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. The apes' Rain of Arrows is deadly enough to defeat the human militia at the beginning, and a shot from Preacher's crossbow mortally wounds Caesar.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age:
    • Humans are armed as expected for a modern military — they wear Kevlar helmets and uniforms, carry modern assault rifles with Laser Sight, fire tracer bullets and rocket launchers, while apes are bare and except for a few modern assault rifles, use shotguns, older battle rifles, bows and wood pikes, and fight on horseback.
    • Preacher uses a crossbow.
  • Arc Symbol: Or rather, an arc gesture, technically. The sign of two fists held up together (referencing the "broken sticks" metaphor from the first movie) serves as a salute for Caesar's apes, and eventually, a symbol of defiance, meaning "Apes Together Strong."
  • Arc Words: "Apes together strong."
  • Armies Are Evil: The main antagonists of the story are a human army.
  • Ascended Extra: Maurice and especially Rocket get more focus after having been Demoted to Extra in the previous film. One of Koba's followers, Red, serves as a secondary antagonist of sorts as well, as does Luca, the gorilla who is largely Red's Good Counterpart.
  • Badass Boast:
    • The Colonel's rogue military have a pretty awesome war chant to match Koba's epic tripartite-construction that he borrowed from Caesar. It also sounds like they've been playing a bit too much Warhammer 40,000.
      Battalion Leader: BLOOD!
      Entire Army: MAKES THE GRASS GROW!
      Battalion Leader: WE!
      Entire Army: MAKE THE BLOOD FLOW!
      Battalion Leader: WE ARE THE BEGINNING!
      Entire Army: AND THE END!
    • Caesar has a subtle but no less epic one of his own:
      Caesar: I did not start this war. But I will finish it.
  • Badass in Distress: After discovering his tribe was captured by Alpha-Omega because he wasn't there to lead, Caesar gets captured and put in chains by the humans.
  • Bald of Evil: McCullough is shown shaving his head clean.
  • Bathos: This is the darkest film in a reboot franchise that was already very dark, and at times it feels like a WWII prison drama or Holocaust movie than a sci-fi talking ape movie. Naturally, it also happens to be the first film in the franchise period where, after two bleak and punishing hours of movie have already gone by, they whip out the ol' "monkey throwing shit at people" joke.
  • Big Bad: Colonel McCullough serves as the main antagonist.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: There are three main gorilla characters in the movie (Luca, Winter, and Red), and all three of them get killed. Averted with the orangutan Maurice, who survives.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Caesar dies after being mortally wounded by one of the Colonel's soldiers, but he lives long enough to see that the apes (including his son Cornelius) make it to their new home.
  • Blood from the Mouth: When Caesar's group finds Nova, she appears to have specks of dried blood at the corners of her mouth. When they later find three of the Colonel's soldiers who were executed, the lone survivor's mouth is bloody, as if from his bullet wounds being fatal. But when Caesar has the final confrontation with the Colonel, the man is bleeding heavily from the mouth along with having just lost his ability to speak. These suggest that the loss of speech is due to the muting disease wrecking the human vocal cords.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Averted. Pretty much every dead body we see is visibly cut and bleeding, and there's a noticeable spray when a couple of characters like Red get shot. Played extremely straight when Preacher takes a direct hit from a grenade launcher and the only thing we see flying out of the explosion is a clean, remarkably bloodless helmet.
  • Bookends: One that extends across the entire trilogy. Caesar and Maurice's first proper conversation in Rise has them sitting together by a tree in the Sanctuary, discussing how apes working together can be strong (and Maurice dismissing the idea out of hand). At the end of War, Caesar and Maurice have another conversation about this very subject, also beside a tree. Caesar realizes that the apes are finally strong with, or without, his leadership. It's also the last conversation the pair have, as Caesar succumbs to his wounds right after their final exchange of words.
  • Broken Pedestal: After Caesar is captured by the Colonel and put with the other apes, none of them help him up and most of them turn away from him, due to Caesar abandoning them to hunt McCullough and indirectly letting them all get captured. They do eventually flock back to him.
  • Call-Forward: Colonel McCullough predicts that Earth will become "a planet of apes" with humans as the chattel.
  • Casual Crucifixion: Zig-Zagged. Alpha-Omega binds apes to St. Andrew's crosses (x-shaped) as a method of warning and execution. Caesar finds one such ape still alive and cuts him down, but the ape lives only long enough to pass on some important information. Later, Caesar himself is crucified in this manner for a day or two, and is visibly weak and suffering. He may not have survived the night if Nova hadn't snuck him food and water. Caesar is then fit enough to participate in the film's climax, though it's implied his time on the cross may have contributed to his death at the end of the film.
  • Category Traitor: Several of Koba's followers have betrayed apes by allowing themselves to be slaves to the humans — they are called "donkeys".
  • Cave Behind the Falls: The apes led by Caesar have built themselves a secret refuge in a cave behind a waterfall.
  • Celebrity Paradox: McCullough mentions King Kong by name... Even though:
    • Andy Serkis (Caesar) plays the titular character (and the human characters' chef) in the 2005 remake.
    • Terry Notary (Rocket) plays the titular character in Kong: Skull Island, while Toby Kebbell (Koba) is also part of that film's cast. However, it should be considered that this film was released in 2017 while the Simian Flu outbreak happened around either 2011, based on Rise's release date, or 2016, based on an in-universe newspaper from Rise.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Nova's doll. It's contaminated with the mutated flu which causes the Colonel's infection.
    • When we first see the camp, there's large fuel tanks near the Colonel's wall. They come in handy for Caesar in the climax.
    • Preacher's crossbow is used once during the opening sequence, and then again whenever he needs to move Caesar... until he finally uses it to shoot Caesar. He also appears to be the only soldier who uses one.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The squad leader of the human soldiers Caesar spared in the beginning turns out to be The Dragon, and the one who directly caused Caesar's death.
  • Children Are Innocent: The only protagonist human in this film is a little girl.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Malcolm, Ellie and Alexander, Caesar's human allies from the last movie, make no appearance here nor are they mentioned. Word of God says that Malcolm was supposed to have been killed by McCullough after the events of Dawn. A deleted scene of him telling this to Caesar is included on the Blu-Ray.
  • Clash of Evolutionary Levels:
    • Played straight with the humans versus apes. Apes could be seen as the "superior" species, being stronger and tougher than humans while being just as smart thanks to ALZ-113 exposure.
      McCullough: You're much stronger than us, you're smart as hell. No matter what you say, eventually you'd replace us. That's the law of nature.
    • Inverted with the humans infected by the new Simian Flu strain. McCullough believes the disease to not just render the victims mute, but to also take away their higher brain functions, robbing them of what makes them human. (Whether that's even accurate or not is up for debate. In at least Nova's case, she seems like she retains the ability to learn and reason.) As a result, seeing what humans would "de-evolve" into if the disease spreads, he kills any infected members of his own army.
  • Les Collaborateurs: There are several apes fighting on the side of humans.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Maurice has a scar on his right cheek from Koba shooting him in an attempt to kill Blue Eyes during the finale of the previous film.
    • Blue Eyes still has the gashes across his chest that he got from the bear attack at the beginning of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
    • Rocket brings up Ash's death when trying to relate and reason with Caesar after Blue Eye's (as well as Cornelia's) death.
    • Hearkening back to the first film's use of The Sons and the Spears ("Apes together strong"), holding two fists next to each other (as if attempting to break a bundle of sticks) has become a Strange Salute among the apes and is used a gesture of solidarity.
  • Covers Always Lie: You see that poster up there with Caesar leading a huge ape army against human forces? Never happens. His herd of apes is much smaller, and they are much more concerned with escaping than fighting the humans. The big war scene comes from another army of humans attacking, with the apes escaping during the chaos.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Alpha-Omega bound apes in x-shaped crosses, leaving them to die from hunger and exposure. Caesar himself suffers from this in the middle of the film, and the reason he was captured is because he tried to rescue his commander, Spear, himself crucified.
  • Cruel Mercy: Although Caesar visibly spares McCullough out of pity and not wanting to give into revenge, McCullough sees his actions as this and promptly shoots himself instead. It's left ambiguous if Caesar himself considered it genuine mercy or this trope.
  • Crusading Widow: The plot is driven by Caesar's desire to avenge his wife and eldest son's murder.
  • Darker and Edgier: Dawn was plenty dark, but it only had one real battle between the apes and the humans. This film features all-out war between the two species, and Caesar goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge He Who Fights Monsters style after the Colonel kills his wife and eldest son. And it gets a hell of a lot worse before it gets better.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Caesar hallucinates two visits from Koba, with Toby Kebbell reprising his role.
  • Demoted to Extra: Blue Eyes, despite being the ape deuteragonist of the last film, is killed alongside his mother in the film's first twenty minutes, mainly serving as a catalyst for Caesar's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Devolution Device: McCullough fears that The Virus has mutated from killing humans to having a devolutionary effect on the survivors. The mutated virus definitely causes humans to become mutes, but otherwise it's not clear whether it has true devolutionary effects.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: "'Die Hard' in a military base... by apes!"
  • Dirty Coward: The "Donkeys", the apes that betrayed Caesar and joined the humans, are seen as this by the other apes. Caesar says that the majority of the "Donkeys" followed Koba during the events of Dawn, and fled to the humans (after previously trying to enslave or exterminate the San Francisco humans) out of fear of what Caesar would do to them for trying to have him killed. After Red escapes from the apes, the white gorilla named Winter is scared for an attack, and rats out his entire colony (indirectly getting Cornelia and Blue Eyes killed) to ensure his own survival.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The last healthy humans who weren't infected with the Simian Flu are shown to have retreated to snow-burdened mountains during winter since the Simian Flu takes away a human's cognitive ability and supposedly their brain intelligence with it. This implies that humanity is doomed to return to the Stone Age, allowing apes to replace humans as the dominant species.
  • Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us: McCullough wants to enslave and kill all the apes before The Virus overcomes humanity, leaving apes in the position to hunt and enslave humans. Jerkass Has a Point.
  • Downer Ending: Two-fold and both heavily foreshadowed.
    • Caesar dies., though it's more bittersweet than outright downer.
    • Apes will inherit the Earth once all humans lose their higher functions, like McCullough predicts, and that humans would then become little more than pets for the apes, just like in the original movie. Nova's cheer at the end only highlights it.
  • Dramatic Irony: What ends up destroying humanity in the end was not the apes but a combination of the Simian Flu, created by humans, and two warring human factions wiping each other out based on conflicting ideologies for the survival of the human race. Even on the brink of extinction, humans use all the remaining firepower to kill each other.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Bad Ape is introduced In the Hood hijacking Luca's horse and equipment. Before he was cornered and forced to reveal his identity, the protagonists thought he was a human.
  • Driven to Suicide: When Caesar finds that McCullough has been infected with the muting disease, the Colonel basically begs Caesar to kill him. When Caesar doesn't, McCullough does the deed himself.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Caesar finally has a chance to confront McCullough, he finds him laying in bed, desperately trying to reach for a bottle, as he had succumbed to the virus.
  • Dung Fu: Rocket has a good aim and lots of crap to give. Also serves as an Excrement Statement.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Caesar himself is fatally hit with a crossbow bolt, but he still manages to help his apes escape the humans, only allowing himself to die once the apes are far away from the remaining humans, who are doomed to become feral primitives as the apes conquer the world.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After an entire movie of suffering, the Apes make it to their new home where they will be safer. It's bittersweet only in the sense that Caesar will not live to lead the others.
  • End of an Age: It is implied that the events of this film was the Last Stand of the human race's dominance and Caesar's leadership has paved way for ape rule.
  • Enemy Civil War: The humans are fighting each other because of McCullough's orders to kill anyone infected with the mutated virus. The Northern army inadvertently serves as The Cavalry for the apes, as they appear just as the apes are escaping, which distracts McCullough's army from noticing the escape. Once McCullough's army is defeated, the Northern army is about to turn on the apes (or at least, Caesar) until they are crushed by a Hair-Trigger Avalanche.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Red is horrified to see Alpha-Omega execute many apes who are attempting to escape from the base, which motivates him to turn against his human masters and aid Caesar.
  • Event Title: The eponymous war between the humans and apes is the film's main setting.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Alpha-Omega vs. the Northern Army. Although Alpha-Omega are enslaving apes and relentlessly killing any humans for being infected, the Northern Army don't have moral intentions for the apes either since they tried shooting Caesar when they first saw him.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • When McCullough has Caesar on his knees, a manacled captive with a pistol barrel jammed against his forehead, the ape leader presses his head into the gun further, daring him to make him a martyr.
    • Caesar dies quietly, sitting next to Maurice as they watch the apes begin to set up their new home.
  • The Faceless: Unlike all of McCullough's soldiers, none of the faces of the soldiers with the northern army can be seen whatsoever with their hoods, masks, and goggles completely covering them over, making them all look like faceless drones.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Nova wanders right in the middle of the courtyard, even having multiple searchlights highlight her. The guards clearly didn't find a small ape-sized dark figure standing out between two pens of apes to be anything worth investigating.
  • Family of Choice: When visiting the captured Caesar, Nova joins the apes in their "Apes Together Strong" salute, cementing her loyalty to them over the humans. She later asks Maurice if she is one of them, and the other apes accept her as a member of their family as they head into the desert.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The newly mutated strain of the Simian Flu destroys humankind's ability to speak. A number of characters either choose to kill themselves upon contacting The Virus or ask someone else to do it if they can't do it on their own.
    McCullough: With this [The Virus], we humans lose what makes us humans.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Foregone Conclusion: During Colonel McCullough's Hannibal Lecture to Caesar, he makes the claim that even humans who are resistant to the virus will eventually succumb to it, so they're only really fighting against the inevitable.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The disease now causes muteness. Which is why mankind in future Apes films are mute.
    • The Colonel mentions that they burned all the possessions of anyone who was infected with the muting disease to avoid it spreading. Near the end, he picks up the doll belonging to Nova who is infected with said virus. Next time we see him, he has been infected himself.
    • At one point, a disgusted Caesar asks Red what is even left of him to save. In the final battle, Red performs a Heel–Face Turn and sacrifices himself to save Caesar's life.
    • McCullough tells Caesar when they first meet that hopes Caesar doesn't come to regret sparing Preacher's life, as he's a very good shot with his crossbow. Preacher gives Caesar his fatal wound with that crossbow.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend:
    • Nova's father is shot by Caesar. Afterwards, she barely even acknowledges his death and by the end of the film, she has completely forgotten about him.
    • Luca. By the end of the film, his ape companions never bring up his death again.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Caesar observes the human army's encampment where Winter is found, there is a banner put up by the soldiers that reads, "The Only Good Kong Is a Dead Kong." (see Mythology Gag below)
  • A Good Way to Die: Caesar dies peacefully, happy that his people are finally safe and free.
    Caesar: Apes are strong... with... or without me.
  • Grand Finale: It acts as one for Caesar's story, as it ends with humanity on the brink of extinction and losing their dominance, paving the way for apes to become the dominant species, as well as the apes finally being free and Caesar passing away.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Northern Army is implied to be this, from their greater numbers to better overall weaponry. Even McCullough sees them as this to some degree since he wanted to build a wall to keep them out. And of course, they're no friendlier to Caesar and the apes than the Colonel's splinter forces are, judging from how they had their guns trained on Caesar towards the end.
  • Great Escape: The plot basically becomes this once Caesar and most of the apes are detained and worked to death in the "Human Zoo", with Maurice, Nova, Bad Ape and Rocket using a tunnel beneath the camp to liberate them.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy:
    • The guards so completely fail to notice Nova sneaking up to Caesar's cage. And across to the other apes. Then back again.
    • Rocket throws poo at a lone guard, so he goes down alone into the prison yard with the keys on him. And nobody manning the searchlights that sweep over him notices him getting beat up or disappearing.
    • The guards also fail to notice Caesar and Rocket rescuing the infants from their cage, leading them up the walls and climbing across a wire from one side of the base to the other, then down into the adults' cage, where every ape goes down into the tunnel one at a time.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: The explosion of the prison camp sets off an avalanche that crushes the Northern army and saves the apes. Justified since the explosion filmed in real life was so big it made the news, and was expanded to four or five times the size digitally in the finished film.
  • Heel Realization: Caesar actually discusses this.
    Caesar: Maurice was right. I am like Koba. He could not escape his hate. And I still cannot escape mine.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Caesar was once one of the apes that advocated peace with the humans, and fought against one of his own kind in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in order to preserve peace. Unfortunately, the war against the apes going badly for the humans is taking its toll on him. Thankfully, he never fully crosses the line.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Red betrays Alpha-Omega in the end.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • The Colonel mentions that several of his soldiers and their families deserted out of horror after he started executing the infected. Nova and her father are apparently some of those deserters and another joined the Northern Army and told them about the Colonel, but there are implicitly others out there, trying to eke out living away from either side of the war.
    • The Colonel says that some members or allies of the Northern Army are still working to find a scientific cure for the Simian Flu and bring humanity Back from the Brink.
    • Percy spends a lot of the first half of the film leading the bulk of the tribe in their evacuation while the main cast act as decoys.
    • Bad Ape gets his own story arc in a comic book tie-in, depicting his life at Sierra Safari Zoo and the abuse humans used to put him through.
  • The Hero Dies: Caesar succumbs to his wounds and passes away shortly after the apes reach their new home.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Caesar reaches the border and discovers what was done to his people, he gets this. Man, those St. Andrew's crosses were horrifying.
  • History Repeats: In the inaugural film, Caesar was adopted by a human family after one of those humans indirectly got Caesar's mother killed. Here, Caesar (technically Maurice) adopts a human orphan after Caesar himself killed her father in self-defense. Bad Ape even lampshades that Caesar obviously sees himself in Nova.
  • Hitler Cam: The Colonel has one as he's shaving his head and watches Alpha-Omega stand before him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: An extremely complicated and indirect way on Colonel McCullough because of Nova. His treatment of the infected humans caused some of his soldiers to desert, among them Nova's father. Nova was found by Caesar's group. She saves the dehydrated and hungry Caesar, and spurs Rocket into letting himself get captured as a distraction, enabling the ape leaders to carry out a complicated escape plan. She also gives her doll to the imprisoned Caesar for comfort, and McCullough handles it... which infects him.
  • Hollywood Tactics:
    • In the initial attack: Alpha-Omega soldiers attack an entrenched, fortified enemy, known to possess cavalry and therefore able to quickly alert reinforcements, from a vulnerable position at the bottom of a hill without scouting ahead of time to ensure that they can kill all of the mounted apes without letting any escape. No surprise when they fail to prevent reinforcements from being alerted and get a platoon's worth of soldiers wiped out in the ensuing counterattack.
    • For the raid on the Apes' hideout: first, the Alpha-Omega soldiers split up, a dumb idea in any scenario but downright suicidal when facing down an enemy with a key advantage in close quarters. They then completely ignore stealth, fielding highly visible laser sights and tactical flashlights while loudly yammering over the radio in an environment swarming with hostiles. No suprise when the two unnamed soldiers get picked off within seconds of screentime while McCullough only makes it out due to Plot Armor.
    • For the final battle: the northern army fails to scout Alpha-Omega's defenses, missing the AA emplacements clearly mounted on the outer wall in plain view. Once they start losing numerous valuable Apaches note , they continue to throw the helicopters away with pointless strafing runs. Once the fortifications are destroyed by an explosion, they send the entirety of their military presence (including massed infantry, Abrams tanks, Strykers, Humvees, and some vehicles note  which have no right being at the front of the battle line) right up to the wall, in a valley between two snow covered mountains, just in time to be completely wiped out by an avalanche. Even without the avalanche, for all they knew the Colonel could have stationed a couple mortar teams on the mountain sides, which would've decimated the massive crowd of infantry and vehicles now crammed, literally, shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the ruined fortress.
    • When the apes move from their home, there's no scouts at all. They just roll out in a big clump. Somewhat justified as Caesar not being with them and providing his tactical ability, directly contributed to the fact the humans "got lucky" (as McCullough puts it) and caught them unaware.
  • Hope Spot: During the battle for the Alpha-Omega base, Red sees Caesar charging towards the oil tanks and priming a grenade in dramatic slow-mo with the music rising triumphantly... only for him to drop the grenade and fall to the ground when Preacher shoots him with his crossbow. It's then subverted when Red kills Preacher with the grenade launcher a few seconds later, buying Caesar the precious time he needs to throw the grenades and blow the base.
  • Humans Are Bastards: With the exception of Nova, all humans in the film are hostile to the apes. Caesar and his fellow apes have suffered such heavy casualties that they point guns at whichever human they run into, including Nova when they first encountered her. It seems that the social unrest caused by the Simian Flu pandemic has divided human society into warring clans that are acting Social Darwinistic, as healthy humans now enslave apes for wall labor and execute any human infected with the flu. Preacher is probably the biggest example of this trope: he was spared by Caesar and allowed to return home unharmed in spite of him having killed at least a few apes with his crossbow, but Preacher goes back to his soldier duties and even shoots Caesar. Your call on whether Preacher is a monster who proves how immoral humans can be in desperate situations such as flu pandemics and war or he was being forced by Alpha-Omega to do so and he was only interested in saving himself.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Blowing up a guy with a rocket launcher to save the life of the man — or ape — who was standing not ten feet from the guy you blew up? Respect.
  • Ironic Name:
    • Bad Ape is one of the good guys, and a mild-mannered one at that. He has bad luck though.
    • Winter never made it into the film's main act which is set in a snowy environment.
    • Preacher is mindlessly indoctrinated by the Colonel into believing he is fighting a "holy war".
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Rocket allows himself to be captured by Alpha-Omega so he could make a much more elaborate escape plan with the already captured Caesar.
  • It's Personal: Unlike in the previous two movies, Caesar is fighting for his own selfish reasons. Namely, to hunt down his wife and son's killer.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The Colonel orders Caesar to tell his apes to get back to work, as he realizes the apes are very much loyal to Caesar. When Caesar refuses to cave in, the Colonel shoots another ape.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: A lot of McCullough's predictions for the future end up being correct, see Foregone Conclusion. Had he acted differently, he may have singlehandedly stopped the rise of the apes.
  • Karmic Death: The Colonel succumbs to the same virus that his son did, and in response he kills himself, just as he did his son. He also got the virus from Nova, whose father fled the Colonel's army in order to save her. And the way he got infected was by locking Caesar up, and then taking the doll Nova gave him. Had he never captured Caesar or the apes, he would've never gotten infected.
  • Killed Offscreen: Blue Eyes and Cornelia's deaths, the wounded soldier infected with the flu whom Caesar kills to end his suffering and McCullough's death are all this. Ironically, they're all more dramatic for it.
  • Kill the Parent, Raise the Child: Caesar's group kills Nova's father in self-defense, then decides to take her with them.
  • Kubrick Stare: Koba does this every time Caesar hallucinates the dead ape appearing to him.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Maurice eventually gives the little girl the name "Nova" from a badge off a Chevy Nova that Bad Ape gives to her.
  • Logo Joke: The Fox fanfare is played in a tribal manner, as if by apes.
  • Manly Tears:
    • McCullough when he's infected by the final stages of The Virus and is asking for Caesar to go through with his revenge and end his misery. Caesar does the same.
    • Maurice when Caesar dies.
  • Mark of Shame: Apes who've thrown their lot in with humans have "DONKEY" spray-painted on their backs and have "AΩ" tattooed on their foreheads.
  • Mauve Shirt: Luca. He also appears in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as Caesar's chief gorilla lieutenant. He has little character development in either movie, but he's still recognizable enough that his death feels significant.
  • Meaningful Name: The apes nicknamed "Donkeys", who have all defected from Caesar to save their own lives, are nothing more than abused pack mules for the humans.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The Northern army attacks the Alpha Omega base to wipe McCullough and his men out, with the apes caught in the middle.
  • Mercy Kill: Caesar gives one to one of the Colonel's soldiers who was infected by the virus, shot, and left to die in the snow, killing him with one shell rather than allowing him to suffer a slow, painful death by bleeding out.
  • Messianic Archetype: Caesar, though he is closer to Moses than to Jesus, leading his "people" out of captivity and dying once they reach The Promised Land. Though Caesar is crucified at one point.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Caesar almost word-for-word when he learns that his Revenge Before Reason got his herd captured because he left them without his guidance.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A mute human girl, name unknown, who comes to be called "Nova". Her doll could be a reference to the one Taylor found in a cave.
    • McCullough's faction is called "Alpha Omega", the codename on the doomsday bomb from the first Apes sequel. A pair of large fuel tanks with "Alpha Omega" written on them are even set off as bombs in the end.
    • Just as Taylor did, Caesar's group ride their horses on the seashore at one point as they journey to find answers. And on both occasions they were accompanied by "Nova", who had to share a horse with another.
    • When Caesar observes through binoculars the encampment of the Colonel's soldiers where Winter is found and soon killed, there is a banner the soldiers put up that reads, "The Only Good Kong Is a Dead Kong"; an inversion of General Ursus' declaration in Beneath the Planet of the Apes of, The only "good" human, is a dead human! note 
    • The northern army's awkward assault on Alpha-Omega's stronghold with a mixed bag of military vehicles, might be reminiscent of the human army's assault on the ape's settlement with a hodgepodge of pieced-together vehicles in the fourth and final sequel to the original 1968 film.
    • The location for the apes' new home is an area by a large lake surrounded by hills and mountains next to a desert, the same landscape where the original Apes film was set, and a lake was where Taylor's spacecraft crashed.
    • This isn't the first times apes were crucified on x-shaped crosses outside the villain's lair.
    • Bad Ape wears a blue vest, similar to those worn in the original films.
    • The last sequel to the original Apes concluded with a statue of Caesar shedding a tear after showing a group of ape and human children sitting and playing together in peace. At the ending of War, Caesar sheds a tear of joy before he dies, after showing Nova, Cornelius, and Bad Ape happily playing together on arriving at the new ape homeland.
    • The Simian Flu that renders humans mute and supposedly lowers their cognitive functions is similar to the illness that plagued the human race in the original novel.
  • Named by Democracy: Maurice names the little girl "Nova" because she cannot tell them her real name due to the side-effects of the Simian Flu and she has been carrying around a Nova logo from a car.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The trailer implied that the war would be started by the attack on the waterfall. The war is already raging when the film starts.
    • The Colonel is heard saying he "needs the girl", implying that the apes have taken Nova, who is important to the Colonel for some reason, and are keeping her away from him. This line is never heard in the film, and the apes find Nova on the way to the Colonel's base without her being important to his plans. The closest she ever comes to the Colonel is leaving the doll with Ceasar which the Colonel suspicious, and his contact with it leads to his infection and later suicide.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: At the beginning of the film, Caesar captures Preacher and several other soldiers, and decides to let them go, rather than executing them. One would expect him to feel some obligation, and help Caesar or the apes at some key moment. Instead, he returns to his unit, helps them capture and enslave the apes, mortally wounds Caesar, and might have gotten all the apes killed, but for Red's Heel–Face Turn.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Caesar's Roaring Rampage of Revenge starts to scare his fellow apes, with Maurice saying, "You sound like Koba." Ultimately, Caesar himself realizes this, and is still unwilling to let go of his hatred until his personal revenge has been met... but manages to finally let it go after seeing the pathetic wreck Colonel McCullough has become.
  • Not So Similar: Though Caesar delves into his Revenge Before Reason rather heavily throughout his mission against the Colonel, he, unlike Koba, manages to finally let it go after seeing how pathetic his Arch-Enemy has become and work to help his fellow apes, rather than seek revenge alone.
  • Not Worth Killing: In the end, Caesar doesn't kill McCullough. He's become so pathetic due to the virus that he can't bring himself to do it. McCullough does it himself.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Unfortunately, this trend still continues...
  • Pacifism Backfire: Caesar believed that sparing Preacher would have been worth it to spread the message that apes are peaceful. This only earns him ridicule from the Colonel for not killing Preacher when he had the chance since Preacher cannot be reasoned with. It also ultimately gets Caesar killed.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Alpha-Omega play the Star Spangled Banner (the U.S. national anthem) while rounding up the apes for wall construction and towards the end of the film Caesar climbs down a burning American flag.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Bad Ape provides almost all of the comedic moments in the movie, although he's something of a Sad Clown given his backstory.
  • Posthumous Character: Koba is alluded to several times, due to the role he played in starting the war and the impact killing him had on Caesar. Caesar hallucinates Koba twice in the film, with Toby Kebbell reprising the role.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Caesar delivers a pretty badass one to McCullough in an encounter between the two of them.
    McCullough: Have you come to save your apes?
    Caesar: I came for you.
  • Product Placement: At one point the Caesar's group bypasses a rusty Coca-Cola truck.
  • The Promised Land: At the beginning of the film Rocket and Blue Eyes return from a journey in which they discover a faraway oasis in the desert where apes can build a new home free from humans. After a long, harrowing exodus full of hardships, the apes finally reach this paradise at the very end. The Moses metaphor is driven home when Caesar dies sitting on a hill, right after his people enter the paradise.
  • Putting on the Reich: McCullough and his prison camp tick a lot of boxes that are evocative of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany respectively.
    • The apes are essentially a mix of La Résistance hiding in the Maquis and Holocaust targets who are being hunted down for extinction. Caesar dying upon entering The Promised Land like Moses pushes the comparison with Jewish people even further.
    • The Colonel's army is made of black-clad fanatical soldiers chanting their leader's words.
    • The Alpha-Omega base is essentially a concentration camp where inmates are starved and worked to death, when they are not summarily executed.
    • "Donkeys" are Les Collaborateurs when helping humans storm the apes' hideouts and kapos when overseeing and brutalizing simian prisoners.
    • The Colonel targeting flu-contaminated humans because they became mute and because he thinks they are no longer intelligent chillingly reminds of Aktion T4.
  • Rain of Arrows: After initially being overwhelmed by the Alpha-Omega troops attacking them, the apes manage to end the battle with one of these once reinforcements arrive.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Red saves Caesar from getting killed only to get himself shot in the head a few seconds later.
  • Red Herring: Aside from McCullough and Nova, Preacher has the most screentime out of all the humans. In his first scene, he is shocked by Caesar's mercy and is later visibly disgusted when the Colonel explains what happens to his son, seemingly foreshadowing that he would perform a Heel–Face Turn and help Caesar and his apes to escape. He doesn't, as he fatally wounds Caesar before being blown up by Red, the traitorous gorilla that performs the true heel-face turn.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Red, Winter and Lake are all implied to have been present in the colony at least during the events of Dawn, yet were not seen among the apes during these events despite their distinctive appearances. Red is explicitly mentioned to have helped plot Koba's attempted usurpation of Caesar in Dawn, yet was not seen at all during that incident. Lake is a bit more forgivable since with her appearance, she could more easily blend in with the majority of black-haired chimpanzees. Not so much for Winter or Red, considering their striking white and red fur colors would have made them stick out like sore thumbs in the previous movies.
  • Rescue Arc: The latter arc of the film is to help the captured apes including Caesar, and deliberately, Rocket.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The main conflict of the film's first half is Caesar leaving his herd to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against his wife and eldest son's killer. Caesar realizes his mistake upon seeing his herd captured without his (and his lieutenants') guidance.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The first battle, with apes using mostly wood pikes, smoke bombs, and a Rain of Arrows against Alpha-Omega soldiers who are equipped with assault rifles and grenade-launchers.
  • Running Gag: Bad Ape comically freaks out whenever the idea of climbing comes up.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Of the Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome variety. Blue Eyes is killed by a surprise headshot without being able to defend himself, while Cornelia was shot while she is sleeping. All within the first 20 minutes.
  • Serkis Folk: The apes are portrayed through motion capture once again. The Trope Namer himself reprises his role as Caesar.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Apes that fight on McCullough's side against Caesar's apes are nicknamed "Donkey", while the humans call Caesar's apes "Kongs". Notably, the most prominent "donkey" is a gorilla with reddish-brown fur. He doesn't wear a red necktie, though.
    • McCullough's Reporting Name for Caesar is "King Kong". Andy Serkis, Ceasar's actor, played the title character in the Peter Jackson version.
    • When Caesar and Luca are checking out the "Human Zoo" with their binoculars, Luca points out a pair of saddled horses, wondering if they're a patrol. Caesar notes that he sees no soldiers... right before his view through the binoculars is eclipsed as the horses' riders attack him.
    • The film wears its love for Apocalypse Now on its sleeve. Aside from sharing a similar premise to the movie about a rogue Special Forces colonel, the scene where Caesar and Colonel McCullough first speak to one another is framed in the style of the conversation between Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz, and there's "Ape-Ocalypse Now!" graffiti hidden in the compound like the graffiti found at the camp in the original movie.
    • There are plenty allusions to The Bible:
      • Specifically Exodusthe humans enslave the apes to be construction workers and are ill-treated due to lack of adequate food and water. Later the apes escape and cross the desert to a new home far away from humans where they can live in peace. Caesar, like Moses, also struggles to control his darker impulses, and never quite reaches the Promised Land.
      • James Rolfe said in his review that "It's like if you take Jesus Christ, turn Him in into an ape, and then put it in a Nazi concentration camp".
      • Maybe also a Stealth Shout-Out to two of the 1968 Ape film's lead actor's best known films.
      • "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" is from the Book of Revelation.
      • Saint Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, and became a martyr.
    • The x-shaped crucifixes in the Alpha-Omega camp look similar to House Bolton's. The fact that the camp is in a snowy field helps.
    • Maurice's promise to the dying Caesar is near identical to the promise made by Varinia to the crucified Spartacus. note 
    • During the opening scene, one of the Alpha-Omega soldiers has the words Bedtime for Bonzo written on his helmet, which is the title of a movie that starred the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
  • Silence Is Golden: Justified. Most of the time the apes speak with the sign language, and most of the humans have lost the ability to speak and everything else because of the Simian Flu.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Winter is killed by Caesar before the group even meet Bad Ape, though his betrayal results in the apes' hideout being compromised and the deaths of Cornelia and Blue Eyes.
    • After being sent back to the Colonel by Caesar, Preacher spends the majority of the film silently guarding the apes at the prison camp. However, before his death, he delivers the mortal blow to Caesar that later results in the latter's passing.
  • Smash to Black: Ends a scene where Caesar gets a closer look at the Colonel's military base and notices several apes around him hung on diagonal crucifixes before he is knocked out by Red and captured.
  • Snow Means Death: The Supervillain Lair is located in a snowy mountain range. Obviously the climactic battle happens here, and leaves a huge body count when it's all over.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The Colonel is definitely The Sociopath due to his cruel actions against humans and apes alike.
  • Sole Survivor:
    • By the end of the movie, Nova is the only living human we see onscreen.
    • Cornelius is also the last surviving member of his family by the end of the film.
  • Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying: The fact that the horse can somehow gallop while carrying a gorilla (who weighs at least 320lb\140kg) shows they're either more resistant than regular ones or being abused — and that's not counting the scene where one carries both the gorilla and a chimpanzee. In the previous two movies, only the chimpanzees rode horses — and in the original movies plus the 2001 remake, the gorillas had "evolved" into a lighter shape, given they're human-sized.
  • Spare a Messenger:
    • Caesar takes four human soldiers prisoner during their assault on the city in the opening scene, but lets them go to give their superior one final warning to leave him in peace.
    • The Colonel brags that when delegates from the Northern Army tried to reason with him, he decapitated all of them except for one who he sent back to dare their leaders to come fight him themselves.
  • The Speechless: Unlike McCullough's soldiers, the soldiers with the northern army do not speak, even after wiping out the Alpha Omega troops, they strangely only celebrate through unsettling yells. This may imply that they have lost their ability to speak due to the virus, but retain their higher brain functions contrary to McCullough's theory, as they are shown making a coordinated attack with tanks, trucks, and helicopters.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • McCullough has apes fighting on his army. He's using Gorilla Warfare.
    • The apes working with McCullough are called "Donkeys," while the enemy apes are referred to as "Kongs".
    • The apes escape through a tunnel under a railroad.
  • Storming the Castle:The main arc of the film is to infiltrate the Alpha-Omega camp.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In general, despite the inevitability of the apes' eventual victory, the film stacks the odds immensely high against them.
    • While the apes were reasonably evenly-matched against the civilian survivors in the previous film, they're at a significant disadvantage against the actual military, whose firepower, tactics, and means of transportation are far more powerful than the apes' more archaic weapons and methods. The conflict itself is hardly even a war at all, as the apes spend the bulk of the film trying to escape from their human enemies.
    • When Caesar embarks alone on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Maurice, Rocket, and Luca choose to accompany him while the rest of the apes continue on their journey. With all four of their leading authority figures abandoning them, the apes are swiftly captured by McCullough and his men.
    • On McCullough's part, building a military base on an arms storage facility under a giant, snow-covered mountain is not a good idea. The climactic battle results in an avalanche that completely buries the base, and all the surviving soldiers from both factions with it.
    • In the end, what dooms the human race has little to do with the apes at all — ideological differences between McCullough and the rest of the military leads to the last bastion for humanity's defence, its armies, going to war against each other, with the apes spending most of the climax trying to stay out of the crossfire.
    • Caesar is wounded with Preacher's arrow by the climax. By the time the apes reach their new home, it's revealed that Caesar hasn't treated the wound at all, which predictably results in his death.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: The Colonel's base. Nova, a little girl in a bulky cloak, walks across half a mile of open ground covered by searchlights and patrols, through a gate, and stands in the middle of the heavily guarded prison area... and is never seen.
  • A Taste of the Lash: At one point, a frail orangutan accidentally drops a beam, causing work on the Colonel's wall to be stalled. He is whipped by Red as punishment, though Caesar presents himself to take the beatings instead.
  • This Means Warpaint:
    • McCullough has put black camouflage warpaint on his face before attacking Caesar's tribe's waterfall refuge.
    • The apes in the initial attack are painted up similarly to their warpaint in Dawn, though a bit more abstract.
  • Title Drop:
    • Partly. In a speech to his troops, McCullough notes that if the humans lose, "it will be a planet of apes."
    • The titles of the preceding films in the trilogy are alluded to in the opening scroll, with the words RISE and DAWN being printed in red.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Nova, as all other humans are enemies.
  • Token Heroic Orc: From the Apes' perspective, is the case of Nova. From the humans' perspective, the case of Red.
  • Token Human: Nova, naturally.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sure, McCullough. Go ahead and grab a random doll that belongs to someone you exiled before, with bare hands to boot. No wonder he is infected the next time we see him.
  • Tragic Keepsake: McCullough had a child that died and keeps a photo of him. He reveals to Caesar that his son grew up to be a soldier in his army, but lost his ability to speak as a result of the muting disease. McCullough killed him to try and stop the mutated virus spreading further, as he does with all soldiers who exhibit symptoms.
  • True Companions: Maurice, Rocket, and Luca to Caesar. They insist on following him on his quest for vengeance, Rocket because he understands Caesar's pain (his son, Ash, was killed in Dawn), Luca because he wants to be there to bodyguard Caesar, and Maurice because he wants to keep Caesar from Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Underground Railroad: Maurice, Nova, and Bad Ape help the apes escape from under the prison and the railroad.
  • The Unfettered: Played straight when Caesar shoots the human deserter nearly point blank with a shotgun. The rest of the apes stare at him in shock. He saved their lives but had done so in an uncharacteristically brutal manner. Averted when he lets Maurice take Nova along with them.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Caesar expresses this to McCullough.
      Caesar: I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you're here to finish us off for good.
    • After the battle at the beginning of the movie, among the surviving soldiers Caesar allows to leave unharmed, includes Preacher, so that they can deliver a message to the Colonel. Later during the Final Battle, Preacher, who had earlier shown signs of a Heel–Face Turn, is just about to finish off Caesar when he is blown up by Red, who did make a Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Villain Must Be Punished: Even after Caesar is able to free the apes from the Alpha-Omega slave camp and knowing the Colonel is being pursued by the Army, Caesar stays behind to execute the Colonel himself in revenge for his family's deaths; subverted when he discovers the Colonel has been infected with simian flu and is mentally degrading. Caesar instead allows him to commit suicide.
  • Villains Never Lie: In the commentary, Matt Reeves admits the Colonel never outright lies to Caesar during his "holy crusade" speech.
  • Villainous Rescue: Red in a Heel–Face Turn saves Caesar in the climax by killing Preacher who wounded Caesar and was about to kill him, allowing Caesar to escape the battle and reunite with his ape colony.
  • Vocal Evolution: While still rather deep, Caesar's voice now sounds nearly indistinguishable from a human's, and, unlike the other apes, he's capable of speaking in full sentences.
  • War Is Hell: Set to be one of the main themes.
  • We Win Because You Didn't: The end-game of the the remaining humans, their numbers are already thin, but the Simian Flu is accelerating their decline. They know they're all screwed but are determined to wipe out the apes as well, rather then have them "win" by becoming the dominant species.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't see the horses that Caesar, Rocket, Maurice and Luca rode after they stop at Bad Ape's hideout. Despite having tied all of them up and reclaimed the one that Bad Ape stole, we never see them being ridden again.
  • White Shirt of Death:
    • Winter, an albino gorilla, gets several of his fellow apes, including Caesar's wife and son, killed by the Colonel. When Caesar catches up to Winter later, he (unintentionally) kills the white ape, which seems only the second time ever that Caesar has killed another ape since Koba.
    • The northern human army is wearing white fatigues, most likely for stealth purposes given the snowy environment. They are the film's final human casualties via avalanche.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Colonel is genuinely impressed by Caesar's intelligence and leadership skills. His first words to Caesar reflect this.
    McCullough: Grant and Lee. Wellington and Napoleon. Custer and Sitting Bull. You're probably not much of a reader, but this is a big moment.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: There is a 10-year gap between Rise and Dawn, and the opening text in this film says it's been two years since Dawn. However, the beginning of the text says that it's been 15 years since Rise.
  • You Remind Me of X: Variant 1. Bad Ape correctly assumes that Caesar has taken in Nova because she reminds him of himself.
    Bad Ape: Who is child?
    Caesar: I don't know.
    Bad Ape: She was you.
  • Zerg Rush: Instead of 21st century combat tactics, the army from the north attack in a mass charge of infantry and vehicles, with loud yelling and whooping as they advance. It's implied that this is the result of The Virus devolving their human intelligence to the point where they have abandoned proper military tactics.