A Hairy Messiah
War for the Planet of the Apes further emphasizes the divine rightness of the simian cause through Caesar, who takes on the attributes of the Bible’s two most prominent deliverers: Moses and Jesus.
Sure, Caesar loses his way for a bit—seeking vengeance instead of justice. But he comes around by the time he discovers the Colonel’s camp, and he finds his entire colony’s been captured by the man and his men.
Caesar won’t leave them, obviously. Instead, he’s captured. Once there, he suffers for his people—and he’s even tied to an X-shaped cross in mimicry of Christ.
But the Moses parallels are even more striking.
The Colonel is forcing the apes to build a huge wall for him—pretty reminiscent of the Pharaoh forcing the Hebrews into service for his own unending building projects. Caesar and the Colonel are engaged in a contest of wills, much like Moses and the Pharaoh were. And Caesar’s determined to find a way to help his “people” go free and find their way to the promised land—a land of milk and honey beyond (and I’m not making this up) a great desert.
The movie culminates in a massive battle—not between man and ape, but man and man. The apes have found a way free and are gathering on the other side of the wall. But then, as the dust clears, the battle’s human survivors spy the apes, and they prepare to destroy them all. It felt akin to Pharaoh’s army chasing after the Hebrews near the edge of the Red Sea.
And just like in the Bible, the army is swept away—not by water, but by snow. A huge avalanche, precipitated by some loud explosions, roars down the mountainside, destroying the human army and leaving the apes unscathed.
An accident? Maybe. But if I was a sentient ape, I’d see evidence of divine providence in that well-timed landslide.
The apes do indeed find their promised land after many anxious days, but the movie couldn’t resist one final Moses parallel.
As the chimps and gorillas move into the valley—a beautiful land indeed—Caesar looks on from the top of the hill. He sees the new country, but he dies right there. Just like Moses died on Mount Nebo, looking into his own promised land. “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there,” God told him.
God kept Moses out of the Promised Land because of his own sin, according to the Bible. And Caesar suggests that he, too, sinned and is thus unworthy of this new, unspoiled place. His thirst for vengeance, more than the wound he’d been nursing, was enough to keep him from making the final leg of the trip. This new country deserves better.
I have an inkling that Caesar’s hope for a utopian (apetopian?) society may not materialize. Not only does the original series kinda telegraph this, but the Bible does, too. It’s not long before either Promised Land loses some of its promise.