The Worthy War for the Planet of the Apes

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-launch-quad-finalTrilogies have a history of falling short in the last movie; even the Dark Knight trilogy’s third film didn’t measure up to its predecessors. But, it is safe to say that War for the Planet of the Apes is the crown of the rebooted franchise. Going into the trilogy with Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the films were decent and well done, but not compelling to me. But War is very worthy. Here’s why:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Hands down, my favorite character in the trilogy is Nova. She is the young girl whom the apes adopt after orphaning her. Her name itself is full of meaning: not only does it allude to the Nova of the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, but it alludes to the Nova Eva, the “New Eve”, which is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve whereas Christ is the New Adam. I suppose the name for the girl hints at her role as the new humanity, though with poignant irony (watch this video)…
  2. The girl carries the Simian Flu virus which has advanced ape brain and speech development while killing human hosts. In War, the very contagious virus has evolved to also debilitate speech and higher cognition in surviving human populations. This means the girl has become mute, and her beautiful rational mind has regressed to a primitive and lowly state. In other words, the Nova Eva is less human, the New Eve is a degenerated girl, the new humanity has become a sub-rational animal. This is even more tragic when Maurice (the ape who first and most advocates for her care) says to the girl when she asks if she is one of the apes: “You are Nova”… you are New. But we know that her newness actually means a regression of her full humanity (she is so degenerated that she even neglects her dead human father, not mourning or responding to her loss).
  3. Nova’s muteness struck me very deeply, since she wasn’t born mute but was rendered mute by the virus, since she became deprived of her speech and reason. Watching her try to speak, hearing her pathetic squeaks, and her dead voice unable to sound: this helped me see how precious is our gift of speech. As an English major with a small background in linguistics and one who loves to teach the Faith, how often have I taken my speech and thinking for granted. How many times have I misused and abused these gifts, speaking lies, evil, hurt, and hatred when I could have spoken truth, goodness, aid, and love? How often have I wasted my intellect on the superficial, the mediocre, and the stupid when I could have focused on the profound, the transcendent, and the wisdom of God?Nova
  4. But that’s where Nova is unique among all the trilogy: she is the only significant “she” in the entire series. No other female characters have carried the story, and her character’s feminine genius shines where no male character could. Though compromised in her thought and speech, her heart and soul survives without the baggage of a fallen mind (a sinful mind). This allows her to have incredible courage driven by her love for her friends, especially for Caesar who we can see she is wary of because of his initial coldness toward adopting her. Her courage, her care, and her nurturing help Caesar survive, and even help bring down the Colonel who threatens ape and infected human alike.
  5. In the Colonel and Caesar, we see a number of Biblical allusions: from the Colonel saying he was willing to sacrifice his only son to save humanity, and his crucifixion of apes, and the crosses he wears and gestures, to Caesar playing a Moses role for the apes. However, the most prominent Biblical gestures involves the Colonel’s mad attempt to wipe out the virus and Caesar’s sinfulness:
  6. The Colonel, in trying to kill and cull all the infected humans, reminds us of the Great Flood as an attempt to show us that even if all evil people were drowned, our fallen nature would persist because we are all fallen. The only way to drown evil is for Christ to drown it within ourselves, to drown it in His precious blood and water, drowning it with true and sacrificial love. And this must be done for as long as we live. Killing and culling the innocent will never save anyone, because the murderers always lose themselves in the killing and culling. We see this play out for the Colonel who ultimately contracts the virus himself.f6e3d832330642c6b9828da378b2a729_7e9007f462214af490bb432418b8b602_header
  7. And we see this in Caesar when he realizes that the ghost of Koba (the ape who turned on Caesar and plunged the ape and human worlds into relentless war) is in his own mind, and that he is like Koba, not above unforgiveness and evil. Because Caesar seeks vengeance against the Colonel, he exposes himself to further attack. becomes wounded, and ultimately is unable to enter the Promised Land with his tribe after a long desert journey (an Exodus) and the drowning of the enemy’s soldiers in a scene that mirrors the Red Sea. This echoes Moses’ prohibition from entering Canaan, as a penalty for his disobedience and arrogance.
  8. The film closes with us seeing that neither the human nor the ape world is perfect. Both are fallen creatures in a fallen world, but in the character of Nova, we see that we need not stay fallen. We can become new in the New Eve and the New Adam, and enter the New Promised Land: the New Heaven and New Earth.
  9. For another review with a Catholic mindset, please see Dcn. Greydanus’ take.
  10.  And don’t forget this excellent insight showing the Biblical side of the film. e86bb895d339a574b84cf0c77904f8173f9c79c9

The Little Mermaid’s Original Sin

58ff56e78a6f63d1284b2ca94542a9b4Like the classic Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s The Little Mermaid is stuffed with Christian allegory. Whether the studio, animators, screenwriters, songwriters, voice-actors, and director actually meant to make the movie as an allegory, I highly doubt it, but it is what it is–and after I noticed it, I can never now un-notice it. Here’s what I saw:

SPOILER ALERT

  1. Distrust of the Father: In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve became doubtful of God’s care and love. They believed they had to go behind his back. This is also what Ariel does in the film: she thinks she is already an adult, that she can decide good and evil for herself, that she knows better that her dad: King Triton.
  2. So Ariel is tempted in her own garden: the secret grotto of amazing fruits (treasures) that she’s collected from forbidden areas. Even so, Ariel grasps for more and for the forbidden, even though she has everything a princess enjoys! A loving father, all the royal fare of the sea kingdom. This was exactly Adam and Eve’s condition in Eden, too, “But who cares, no big deal, I want more….”part_of_your_world
  3. Then the serpent appears, and Ariel believes Ursula ( as represented by her twin sea-serpents: eels). This is interesting because we Christians know Satan is not really a serpent, but the snake of Genesis merely represents the tempter. Also, we discover a few things from Ursula:
    • She used to live in the Father’s palace, used to serve the King, until she was banished because of her treachery. Sounds awful lot like when Lucifer rebelled in Heaven and was cast down like a lightning bolt.
    • The Devil will always deceive, and has always been watching us for weaknesses, to tempt us where it hurts or appeals most. And so Ursula stalks Ariel, watching her every move since her birth. The witch knows all Ariel’s secret desires and uses them against her.
    • Ursula, knowing her notorious reputation, fakes her conversion story, saying she is now a saint trying to “help” others! And so the serpent did when it lied to Eve, deceiving Eve into thinking the forbidden fruit was ready to eat now, and not to trust in God’s wisdom that He would give everything good in due time, in divine timing.
    • The moment Ursula said that Ariel was “the key to Triton’s (the Father’s) undoing” reminded me that the Devil can never hurt God: Satan and all demons are only creations of God who chose to be ugly and evil. Knowing this immense weakness before God, Satan instead seeks to hurt God’s children: us. Thus, Satan is none other than the Original Child Abuser.
    • And whatever gifts Satan tempts us with will always come with major strings such as illness, stupidity, addiction, perversion, hatred, lonesomeness, death. Satan tempts us with false choices; he deceives us into thinking we can actually get some good out of following him, but actually he rigs all the choices with time bombs, he laces all options with poison. He doesn’t want to really help us; he’s only trying to help himself to our destruction. We see this clearly with Ursula’s deal: she only wants to capture Ariel and conquer the Kingdom.
  4. Because God is love, Satan wants nothing to do with it, and he wants us to be deprived of it. But since he cannot destroy love, he tempts us to abuse it, to refuse it, and to settle for less: Satan tempts us to lust; lust is love distorted. With Ariel, the witch convinces the mermaid that love’s only about superficial appearances: “You’ll have your looks, your pretty face, and don’t forget the power of body language! The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber!”
    • tumblr_nm5a3klegz1u3ptkco1_400When Ariel falls for the lie about love (when we fall for the lie about God), she agrees to the sin. And of course, the sin always costs something. So Ursula’s theft of Ariel’s voice is the consequence of her original sin, and this loss makes Ariel less of herself, as sin always deprives us of our entire beauty. Ariel’s greatest gift was to sing, and now sin silences her song.
    • Even more, our Original Sin wounded relations between man and woman: we began to use each other, not know each other for our greatest gifts and deepest dreams. And in the film, we see that Eric cannot recognize Ariel, the couple cannot communicate. Love becomes confusing, and incredibly difficult to experience, to choose.
  5. But God wants us to know that He is love. To do this, God wills to sacrifice, wills to pay the penalty to free us, to REDEEM His children. And so God becomes weak, He descends to the dead (Ursula’s seaweed garden): Satan’s prison. Triton sacrifices himself for Ariel’s freedom (and freedom is the key ingredient to true love).
    • But we, man and woman, must still work and sacrifice to make God’s dream come true! In the film, Eric defeats Ursula utterly. Eric is like a type of New Adam, here to undo what the First Adam failed to do: defeat the serpent who deceives the First Eve.* In the Bible, Jesus Christ is the New Adam who does this for us.
    • The ship is a traditional symbol of the Church, and this ship, no matter how busted, still spears Satan, as Christ will always steer and guide the ship through her crew of popes and bishops *(just as Eric guides and steers the busted ship to bust the witch). Notice also that Ursula doesn’t even see the ship coming at her; this mimics well how Christ blindsided Satan, defeating evil and death by dying–something so counter-intuitive.
  6. In the end, the Father always had His childrens’ best interest in store. All we had to do was trust Him and wait patiently. In the film, we discover King Triton always had the power to transform Ariel into a full human being, not some deprived version of a woman that Ursula delivered. In Christianity, we believe that God, our Father, always wanted to transform us, to glorify us, to divinize us! The serpent told Eve that God didn’t want us to be like God, but actually that was God’s dream all along, and that we were already in the image and likeness of God! All that was left was for us to become more and more like our Father, more the humans God meant us to be. Whereas sin makes us less human, deprives us of our greatest dreams: to be like God.EverySaint
  7. That about wraps it up. Here are some bonus symbols that didn’t fit into the list above, but are neat anyways:
    • Sebastian-the-crab’s full name includes “Ignatius”, which is a pretty big name for Christianity. We have famed saints with that name, such as Ignatius of Antioch, and Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits).
    • The sea is traditionally seen as the fallen world of sin. It is unsafe, has unpredictable storms, and was even demonized by the Jews who considered it a place of evil.
    • And Eric resembles the lonesome man in Genesis 2:20-23), searching for someone to love, a helper. He falls into a deep sleep and wakes to find woman (Ariel), sitting at his side.

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Disclaimer: recall all metaphors have weaknesses, as all analogies/allegories do. In this case, King Triton is not a perfect symbol of God (Triton has a few flaws whereas God is flawless). Also, Eric is not quite a fitting symbol of Jesus.

Remembering Tragedy

Tomorrow is the one year memorial of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I was reading Jennifer Hubbard’s reflection in the Magnificat about her daughter Catherine being killed. Somehow, I was then reminded of the Fall — our Fall from Grace way back in Eden — when we chose to disobey and eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

And I know for certain God always intended to give us this fruit, this knowledge. Why else would He create such a thing otherwise? A thing that was “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for the knowledge it would give”?

DO NOT EAT. DUH!

DO NOT EAT. DUH!

But He wanted us to wait. The fruit was not ready, not yet ripe, and we were not ready. He was saving the fruit, waiting for the right time when it was safe for consumption.

But we wanted to know, and the fruit was still bitter and our digestive system was not mature for it. It was like us feeding solid food to ourselves as newborns. And we got terribly sick.

And this is why there is evil in our world now… we asked to taste it, to bring it into us, to know it, and it has ravaged us with its poisons. The goodness and sweetness of the fruit we forsook when we couldn’t wait, when we chose to have the immature flavor instead.

And we are far from done. Evil can get far worse. We have not yet known its full decadence and toxin. The worse is yet to come. We indeed wanted to know, so now we’re still finding out how wicked it can taste.

Yet, New Fruit has been given to us by the New Eve. The Blessed Fruit of Her womb turns water into wine, and wine into His Precious Blood. He turns bread into His Sacred Heart. Stop settling for the unripe, the bitter, the disgusting, and seek instead the true life, true sweetness, true hope. Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve…

The Fall, and the New.

The Fall, and then The New.