It wouldn’t be the first time God turned His back on His favorite creation, the Bible tells us. God got sick of humankind back in Genesis 6, too. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” we read in Gen. 6:5 (ESV). So what did God do? He sent a massive flood that drowned pert near everyone. Noah and his family were the only folks to survive, thanks to a massive boat that God told Noah to build.
The new Planet of the Apes movies give us a world in a similar life-or-death pickle, but there’s no Noah around to help.
The culprit this time is a manmade virus called the Simian Flu: Originally designed by mankind as a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the flu instead gives primates—gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, etc.—heightened intelligence and the ability to communicate, and even talk, with one another. Meanwhile, it decimated the human population something awful. When War for the Planet of the Apes opens, it seems there are very, very few of us left.
But clearly, the simian flu was the creation of man, not God. Right?
Certainly if there was a worldwide flood today, we’d all point to climate change, wouldn’t we? I’ve never been one to believe that all acts of God are flat-out, inexplicable miracles: The natural world is His creation, too, and I’d imagine that He’s perfectly capable and content to work within that world. And when we mess around with that natural world too much—when we try to mess too much with the limitations we’ve been given—maybe it’s fitting that God and nature would conspire to knock us down to size.
In fact, what we see in War for the Planet of the Apes reminds me of another divine punishment—that found in the story of the Tower of Babel.
According to Genesis 11, all the people of the earth gathered together and decided to build a massive tower to the heavens. It was a display of arrogance, and God didn’t like that very much. So according to Gen. 11:7, He confused their language, “so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
I find that particularly interesting, given yet another side effect of the Simian Flu: In War for the Planet of the Apes, we learn that the flu doesn’t just kill people: It turns the survivors dumb. No longer can they communicate as they used to—and as apes do now.
(Caution, spoilers ahead)