In War for the Planet of the Apes, the Colonel is trying to avoid the spread of the disease which turns talking humans to non-talking beasts. He claims his son went crazy, turned into a range beast, and he had to kill him. The plot revolves around this strange virus mutation and its effects.

However, we see at least three cases (2 short, 1 long) that the disease just removed the humans' ability to speak, not their actual intelligence or rational behavior.

  • The kid, Nova. Her dad ran from the soldier group months ago, but is still able to speak (talking about some sticks, "I'm just going to put these down"). The girl seems completely normal, aside from not speaking. She is smart, funny, she saves the day, she learns sign language

  • The soldier killed in the snow. When Caeser and crew find 3 corpses, one is still alive. He looks at them, scared. He then relaxes when he understands the apes are going to end his suffering.

  • The Colonel himself. Not being able to speak, he ends his own life

Doesn't seem that much of a beast behavior to me. Granted, the soldiers and Colonel might have been affected for a very short time, but Nova at least, doesn't exhibit beast-life behavior. So, how bad is this disease, really?

2 Answers 2


In the 1968 movie, humans were very primitive.

So, without any more evidence, and supposing the new trilogy is a reimagining, but essentially trying to walk towards the same situation (a planet ruled by apes, where humans are subjugated), I'd say the new virus is very likely to be the downfall of all humanity, and the Colonel had a good reason to fear it.

So exactly at what level of intelligence does the disease leave humans? Again, falling back in the 1968 original, it leaves humans at roughly the "ape" level. The only real long term evidence we have in War of the Planet of the Apes is Nova, and we don't exactly know how smart Nova was before the virus, so it isn't a fair comparison. All the things Nova did, apes can do in real life, in particular signaling.

Let's presume Nova was a healthy kid, with normal functions before the virus. Post-virus she didn't seem smart enough to understand dialogue, or have that much situational awareness. She didn't just lose her ability to speak, she lost her ability to understand words at a higher level.

On more than one occasion she disobeyed a direct order, not out of stubbornness but just absent mindedness. She still walked around without any fear on the base, where she saw a huge number of armed men, who were dangerous and prone to hurting the apes. She didn't attempt to sneak or hide. She didn't seem smart at all for a human. She clearly was much more primitive than a regular human.

  • She seemed about as intelligent as Carl from the walking dead. Much younger tho
    – cde
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:28
  • I don't agree. Carl made stupid decisions, but there was something going on in his head. He understood and disagreed based on his inexperience. Nova on the other hand, will gleefully walk in the enemy camp, smiling, back and forth. She is completely oblivious, and can't read the situation. She doesn't signal anything more complex than "water". She is 12, and so is Carl in TWD season 1. Unless you mean 18 year old badass Carl, but then I'd double disagree.
    – CyberClaw
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:40
  • The actress was 12. I don't know if anything in the movie dictated her age. The wikia says her father was likely the soldier left for dead in the snow, and that the soldier she was with was experimenting on her. Most of this seems dubious. I thought the character is supposed to be younger, she didn't seem 12ish. And she does mime more, like when she asked Maurice if she was ape.
    – cde
    Jul 20, 2017 at 19:11
  • Like I said, nothing more complex than water. Her miming is at a real ape level. They understand single words and little more than that. They don't understand complex dialogue. So for example she can sign "water" but not "I want water" or "do you want water?" Maybe she didn't have enough time to learn more intricate signing. But given the fact there are more ways to communicate eloquently (like writing), and affected soldiers never attempted it, I'd say their higher thought of communication is gone.
    – CyberClaw
    Jul 21, 2017 at 10:57
  • Besides, why wouldn't a 12 year old sneak and hide? Or whatever age she was? I mean we learn hide and seek much younger. At 3 or 4 we might still leave body parts out like the feet sticking out off the curtains, but we can hide more or less like a cat(only the eyesight is important) but at 10, we are already aware of line of sight and our own body. The fact she was so relaxed there showed she was oblivious.
    – CyberClaw
    Jul 21, 2017 at 11:10

The colonel represents human fear, panic, doubt. An animal cornered by things it can't fight. He represents madness, hatred and prejudice. He was given an opportunity to stop fighting but doesnt. He is ordered to stand down but doesn't. He kills anyone that represents the enemy, the virus that made apes smart and killed 90 percent of the population in a span of a decade. Be that defenseless apes or humans, family even. At the end, he Has become fanatical. A cult leader. He is not a rational source of information.

He considers the virus like he does any enemy. It must be destroyed at all costs. Other, mostly rational humans consider the virus like any other, something that can be handled within the means of medical science.

We know that Nova and her father had gone awol just months prior, but after the soldier was branded with the Alpha Omega symbol , based on the Colonel' s dialog to Ceasar. We know that he will have anyone that is infected killed, and anyone that refuses to kill the infected, so we can be sure that he will do it immediately when they are found to be infected.

What we don't know is the long term effects or the vector of the mutates virus. It could do nothing but render them mute. It could be spread by infection by other humans or it's a mutation of their existing infection of the original virus or carried by the Apes.

But the biggest thing we know is that the effects of the virus manifest themselves immediately. The movie heavy implies by cutting to a shot of Nova's blood soaked doll after Ceasar finds a bloody Colonel in his bed, that the Colonel got infected by Nova's doll. This juxtaposition of the doll makes it a clear cause and effect.

Unlike the original films where mute-ness is because the humans do not know how to speak after an uprising by apes killing humans, this version makes both due to a fatal virus. Without knowing how humans will be effected in the long run, all we can say is that the virus is quick acting and widely infecting. It is a pandemic, but we can't say to what extent. The Colonel's explanation of ape-like behavior is suspect due to fanatical racism.

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