How did you like the portrayal of the humans?
Well, since most of us have seen some version of the Planet of the Apes, we know that in the end the planet will be conquered by apes in some fashion. We also know these apes have some kind of alteration that massively increases their intelligence. Additionally, in the original 1960s version of the movie series, we know that humans have forgotten how to speak, so the apes think they are genetically superior to the humans. In the 1960s, the apes kind of stood for a metaphor of the civil strife with the rise of civil rights movement, terrible police actions against blacks and really the exposure on camera of how cruel the racist system was just to try to keep the illusion of two tier type of system between ex white slave owners and the ex slaves descendents asking for freedom. Fast forward to 2017, post-Obama presidency and that flavor and impact of the original series has been almost forgotten. So the director really needs the audience to bond with the apes without the disturbing 1960s TV incidents as a background. Although with the recent rise of Black Lives Matter and the counter-protest All Lives Matter or Police Lives Matters you really wonder how much "progress" has been made in our country for seeing people as equal. Do cops with guns really need "protection"?
Just comparing these two photos, you can see the militarization of the police with clubs and crazy masks, plastic shields, sadly done under the Obama administration selling old military MRAPs, machine guns and sniper guns to police around the US. In a way this a worsening of the police towards a dictator style police. Really, you just need a few more whack presidents to seemingly fall into a Venzuela style dicatorship, but back to the movie...
The part I like is that they show the humans as so cruel and predisposed to maintain their power that they start to lose their humanity just to preserve their way of life. There are a sub-class of apes that have been co-opted by the humans to help fight the apes called donkeys that are spray tagged on their backs. I really appreciated this edge to the war in the movie as we saw a similar thing happen in WWII as the Nazis took more and more countries, people switched sides to live within the Nazi regime even becoming the Judenrat, which was used by the Nazis to police the Jewish population to herd them in the ghettos before getting sent to the camps themselves. Then in the extermination camps, they had a new level of Judenrat, policing the Jews in prison just to get a few more table scraps before getting killed themselves. The director captures this very subtle and real reaction to people captured by an opposing side and just trying to survive to the next day.
Was there any surprises in the movie?
One of the surprises is how the apes deal with a lost human girl after her father is killed by the apes trying to seek revenge. In setting off to revenge the colonel deceptive inhuman kills, they find this girl, who they decide to spare and becomes the friendly human helper to save the apes in the end of the film.
Well, he is the villain and at the same time he is trying to save the human race, so is driven to very extreme methods. His character is really very fleshed out though most of the story is on Caesar and the apes trying to survive the human resolution to end the advanced apes as a new species. His ruthlessness is hard to understand until they reveal some underlying logic to the colonel. In the end, you are not sure if you hate him, respect his decision or would choose the same path. I really enjoyed this ambivalence to the character as he does define some aspects of humanity that are very precious and also how a person can lose themselves in battle completely, which lead to their unravelling.
How was the film perceived?
Audience members actually clapped for the film. You know it is very unusual to hear clapping nowadays in the cinema as people have seen so many films and many films end with a nice happy end. This one ends in near tradegy, at least for the humans and the happy ending for the apes is not quite as happy. I think the ending was near perfect in the evolution of the main characters, the battle of the planet of the apes and the morality it shows the audience. Definitely a great story, which is challenging with the massive CGI use to get the apes to have soul and be endearing to the audience.
Did this movie have any personal impact?
Well I did have some tangents with the story line. I did live in Poland during 1989 behind the Berlin Wall, so saw the police state in action crumble in the face of actions by the population and a weakening government that has lost its way. I saw several movies on the police state in Poland back from the 1970s that was banned until that year. I also read several books on the Holocaust. One of the best I think to teach children about it is the Maus series. You can really understand how humanity can sink to the lowest levels and what people did to survive in a crazy system that became the Holocaust. Unfortunately though humans tend to repeat atrocities.
Would you do art on this type of film?
I really enjoyed this film and its premise. I think actually I would dive into the BLM movement and have several ideas already sketched out on its impact and how society is changing or not really changing. I think I have put it off as I think there would be no audience, but you know, sometimes you just have to make the painting and not worry about the commercial impact.
Another painting I did do on civil war was "Daraa Drought Drowned a Bloody Bath" about the unfolding protest and later civil war in Syria. This has a piece of poetry by the famous Adonis poet in the middle, which originally was a 50 page poem about the 67 Arab War against Israel, but fit into my painting of the darkness of the war, people and countries there.
and I shall call this city a cadaver
and I shall call Syria's trees mournful birds
a flower or a song perhaps
will be born of the naming
and I shall call the desert moon a palm tree
perhaps the earth shall awaken and become
a child again or the dream of a child
There is nothing left to sing my melodies:
the dissenters shall come and
the light shall come at its appointed hour...
Only madness remains