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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Does the mutated disease actually deprive the humans of their intelligence, or just their voice? The Colonel claims the disease deprives humans of the capacity for thought, but there is little evidence for this in the film as Nova and eventually the Colonel himself seem perfectly aware and thinking after being affected rather than being reduced to animals as the Colonel suggests. If one assumes all it does is affect the capacity to speak, it casts the Colonel in an even worse light.
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    • Related to the above: Did the Colonel kill those infected (including his own son) to put them out of their misery, or because he felt their loss of speech and (apparent) thought meant they were no longer useful/competent? Also, is he a ruthless and Ax-Crazy military officer drunken by vengeance? An obnoxious Blood Knight taking pleasure in battles and torturing apes? Or is he a Well-Intentioned Extremist desperately trying to stave off the mutated disease and preserve the only thing that makes a human a human: the ability to speak, which no other animals would normally possess?
    • Caesar himself, specifically his death. Did he not look after his wounds after the final battle because he believed he'd crossed the Moral Event Horizon and was no longer fit to lead the Apes, even if it meant orphaning his very young son? Or were the wounds, combined with the mistreatment at the hands of the Colonel, just too much to overcome? Or was he already almost dead after leaving the base, but heroically fought to stay alive and moving long enough, while hiding his mortal wounds and otherwise crippling agony, to see his people to safety?
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    • When Caesar is tied to the post, he hallucinates Koba in front of him, who tells Caesar to "join" him. Was he tempting Caesar to stop fighting for his life and join Koba in death, or to give up his faith in humanity and accept Koba's beliefs? Or is it both: for Caesar to die in a state of anger and hatred just like Koba did?
    • Winter; when told by Caesar that his betrayal had gotten Blue Eyes and Cornelia killed, was Winter displaying fear knowing that Caesar would kill him, or was it genuine regret upon realizing that his cowardice had gotten his friend killed?
  • Angst? What Angst?: For a little girl, Nova shows remarkably little emotion over her father's death, and doesn't have many reservations traveling with Caesar, the one who killed him. Although it is still debatable as to whether the man Caesar killed was indeed Nova's father, or if he was associated with Nova at all.
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  • Anti-Climax Boss: Deliberately invoked with the Colonel. Both him and Caesar seem itching for a brutal battle to the death between them, but when Caesar finds him in his own quarters, he's become infected with the mute virus and is too pathetic to even stand up, and instead Caesar stands and watches while the Colonel shoots himself.
  • Awesome Music: It's Michael Giacchino, what do you expect?
  • Broken Base: As highly acclaimed as the movie was, there were still some things that didn't sit too well with everyone. Perhaps the biggest fan criticism of all was how in the end, there was no final, conclusive war between the apes and humans for control of the planet. While there was a skirmish between the two sides at the beginning of the film, the movie's conclusion really only featured two human factions taking each other out. Given how much the trailers seemed to be telling the audience that War would be THE ultimate battle for supremacy between apes and humans for the fate of the world, it's understandable why some fans would be miffed that both apes and humans ultimately don't have a final showdown to determine the planet's fate.
    • Red's Heel–Face Turn and Preacher's death has also caused debate, as many were hoping Preacher would fulfill the role left vacant by Malcolm from Dawn, only to instead serve as a Red Herring instead, with Red being the one to play the role of a former antagonist redeeming himself when some had wished for him to remain an antagonist so as to symbolize why some of the apes sided with the humans, especially since Preacher had a better motive to change sides more than Red did.
  • Cry for the Devil: The Colonel is a vicious psychopath, but his tragic backstory (where had to put down his own son to prevent the spread of the virus), sympathetic motivations and pathetic, agonizing demise makes him far more sympathetic than one would anticipate.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Although it's widely agreed that the film is well-made, portions of the film are perceived as incredibly dark and difficult for audiences to get through, with most of the second act being about how much the apes suffer while being prisoners of war. The lack of fully-sympathetic human characters aside from Nova also factor into this, since even though Dawn was also Darker and Edgier, that movie didn't portray humans as being Always Chaotic Evil.note  That being said, the movie's ending has been praised for making the sheer nightmare that the characters go through worth it.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Bad Ape is considerably well-liked for being an outsider from Caesar's group, having an interesting backstory, and providing comic relief that actually works in spite of being in an otherwise completely serious film.
  • Even Better Sequel: After the acclaim that Dawn got, it wasn't expected that the sequel would quite match that movie's reception... But it actually managed to, and then some. Rotten Tomatoes score is hovering around 93%, a few points higher than Dawn (90%) and quite a bit higher than Rise (81%).
  • Evil Is Cool: Let's not beat around the bush here, the Colonel is a monster, but his complex motivations, tragic end and Woody Harrelson's chilling performance makes him an incredibly memorable and effective villain.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Colonel McCullough has an incredibly tragic backstory about how his life was ruined by the Simian flu, and his struggles are — from his perspective — about preserving what's left of the human race and humanity in general. It does not justify what he does at all, but it's an understandable Freudian Excuse. And then he's infected by the Simian flu version that destroys cognitive thought/the ability to speak, leaving him an utterly broken mess that is too pitiable for Caesar to kill.
  • Narm:
    • The Colonel's Title Drop is pretty cheesy in the trailer, although it's not quite as bad in the film considering that it's a part of a monologue that actually kind of works.
    • The movie poster with the apes in the back standing off against the humans at the front looks incredible... And then you get distracted by Bad Ape off to the right wearing an out-of-place blue coat.
    • A large amount of critics and viewers tend to agree that the Colonel's exposition scene when he's talking with Caesar is awkward to sit through due to how long it goes on for.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Two-scene, actually, but Toby Kebbell leaves a serious impression whenever Caesar has nightmares about Koba.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Humans are basically Always Chaotic Evil in this film, either killing the apes or using them as slaves, and show no gratitude or morals. But taking into account that they are the last remmants of the human race, it is easy to understand their desperation and radical views.
  • Special Effect Failure: The final battle and avalanche look very much like undercooked CG, especially next to the much, much more effective CG on the apes. Perhaps they should've let Andy Serkis mo-cap the helicopters. And the snow.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Viewers who had grown attached to Blue Eyes from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were pretty upset with him being killed off within the first 20 minutes of the film.
    • A considerable amount of viewers were disappointed with Preacher's role in the film, hoping he would fill the spot left by Malcolm from Dawn, particularly due to having a decent motive to side with Caesar along with showing visible signs of internal conflict with his position. Instead, he remains an antagonist through the entire film, and is killed before having any chance for redemption.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Inverted. This film is the third installment in the highly acclaimed reboot of the franchise, and in particular is coming off of a sequel that many critics and viewers compared to the greatest sequels of all time like The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, etc. Expectations are very high, to say the least. From the very high Rotten Tomatoes score, it seems like expectations were successfully met.
  • Uncanny Valley: The Apes are getting closer and closer to this, walking more upright more often, and moving more like humans than in the previous films.
  • Unexpected Character: Being this far into the reboot series (along with five decades since the franchise's debut), nobody expected that we would see "Nova" again.
    • Not a lot of people expected that Caesar’s unnamed second son would turn out to be Cornelius.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: If one accepts the movie as ultimately tying up with the original, in which humans are little more than wild animals, then McCullough is very much right in everything he says, how much the virus destroys cognitive thought is left ambiguous but could be handwaved as merely progressing in stages, bringing the apes' survival and the wiping out of the humans at the end that much closer to a Downer Ending.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: It's to be expected in the third Planet of the Apes reboot movie, but just the first trailers already look miles better than even Dawn of the Planet of the Apes did. A particularly impressive moment in the second trailer is Luca smiling at the little girl.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • The lone night sentry entering the cage and confronting the apes all by himself without summoning other guards.
      • According to the novelization, the sentry (named Boyle) had some real anger issues, which lead to rash decisions being made.
    • The general has two enemies: the apes, and the army of the north. The apes defeat an attack and send some soldiers alive, with their demand: they just want to be left alone. The general thinks that the apes must be destroyed, the very future of the human race depends on that, and that he can not accept coexistence.
      You'd expect: The general "accepts" the apes' demands, leaves some sentries in the borders of the forest just in case, and prepares for the attack of the army of the north. And then he betrays the apes, after the army of the north has been defeated.
      Instead: The general betrays the apes immediately, and fights in two fronts.
  • The Woobie:
    • Bad Ape! Heavily implied to be abused once he gained intelligence, he's been isolated so long that he has no idea that other apes can speak, and the poor dude has to wear human clothing since he's practically bald.
    • Cornelius. In the span of presumably a week he has lost his entire family. First, his older brother and mother are murdered by the Colonel, with the heavy implication he was present to witness their deaths. His father leaves to seek revenge and Cornelius begs his father to stay. At some point, he and the other apes were captures and sent to a work camp. Then, when everything looked a little brighter when they finally reached a safe home, his father dies. Poor kid...
    • Nova. In just a few days, she loses her father, witnesses one of the apes who cared for her killed, is exposed to the brutal horrors of war, and when it looks like she finally gets a new home, she loses another of her friends. Add to the fact that she cannot speak and doesn't have any other family members, and you have probably one of the most tragic characters in the film.
    • Surprisingly, Winter. "Revelations" elaborates on his cowardice being a result of his insecurities at fitting in with his fellow gorillas due to his albinism. While this does not excuse his betrayal, one can't help but pity Winter, who had once wanted to be brave like his father, whom he idolized.
      • Other novelizations also reveal that Winter was used and constantly betrayed by Red when the latter was staging an insurrection against Caesar, putting further doubt on his beliefs as to where he stood. even worse, before his death, Winter was beginning to realize he made the wrong decisions and was planning to abandon the humans. Sadly, he didn't get the chance.

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