War for the Planet of the Apes Review

apes together strong. Apes Together Strong. APES TOGETHER STRONG!

Anytime a new Planet of the Apes movie comes out, it seems hard to side with the smart apes rather than the humans. Which side wants to survive from humanity? Are the apes the good guys or the bad guys? The third and final installment in the rebooted Apes trilogy War for the Planet of the Apes might be a sad end to an incredible story of a furious leader that pretty much changed cinema.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.

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This new franchise started out with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it was a huge surprise back in 2011, and while I didn’t love it as much as others, I still thought it was a solid reboot that worked. Its sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (3rd favorite movie of 2014) is one of those sequels that’s better than its predecessor, and it was incredible. So, I was very excited about War as not only was this in my top 5 most anticipated movies of 2017, but I really enjoyed the first two films, and if all goes well, this might become a fantastic trilogy. And it’s definitely the best trilogy I’ve seen since The Dark Knight.   

First off, every time I watch any of these films on screen, I’m still amazed at how great the motion-capture work looks in this. These are still the most realistic apes ever. It looks like it keeps improving with each passing film and it’s mind-blowing seeing apes talking and apes on horses. A lot of times I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not real, but it’s at most convincing. Any time there are close-ups, it’s very astonishing. They could just be real apes and they learned how to act on camera in extraordinary ways. Kudos to the workers at Weta Digital.

If there’s any performer that should be in talks for the Oscars, it should always be Andy Serkis. His performance as Caesar is still incredible. How he was just a chimp who became smart in the first and now this fearless leader during all this progression as shown to full effect. It’s clear that he’s getting old, and that he didn’t want to start this war. He wants to protect his fellow apes from being killed. He made Caesar an actual character to really care for in many depths that makes him a strong protagonist. Anytime he speaks, you’re just blown away and he does speak a lot more in this. After this was done, he’s one of the best film characters of the decade. Will the Academy finally give him a nomination? Well, they didn’t nominate him the last two times, but this should be the performance that finally gets attention for motion-capture performances.

Matt Reeves returns after directing Dawn, and it’s a great thing he came back to the franchise. His direction is absolutely beautiful. He ties moments back from the last two films and even the older films as well. Even before watching the film, I’m excited to see what he can do with The Batman. Since he co-wrote this with Mark Bomback, it becomes unconventional throughout as it takes unexpected turns. It gravities to that emotional pull that actually makes you care about these apes.

What I love about each film is that the story is drastically different from the other. Each movie takes place years later in a new location. And mainly what made Wars important is that there’s a more central focus on the apes this time. Because most people notice that in the last two films, it goes back and forth on the humans whether it’s James Franco or Jason Clarke, and it backtracks the focus on the apes’ storyline. A large majority of the film is really on the apes which is a good thing.

Whenever any amount of action happens, it’s captivating. From the first opening sequences to the last, you do not want to fight against the apes. There isn’t much action as some would think but it was enough to really be engaged in the complex story.

The cinematography by Michael Seresin was beautiful which I can’t tell what was real and not. But it looks stunning.

Michael Giacchino’s score was also fascinating as there are certain scenes that are carried on with the music and it’s mesmerising because it can express a scene without anyone talking.

Besides Caesar, there is better character development in this. Maurice, the Bornean orangutan, is just an amazing character and the connection he shares with this mute girl, Nova (Amiah Miller) was honestly special. She doesn’t have any line of dialogue at all, but Miller’s performance is what I call brave. Steve Zahn as “Bad Ape” could’ve have been an annoying character because of the way he looks and he could’ve ruined the movie. But he didn’t. He reminded me of Dobby from Harry Potter in a good way. He provided the comic relief that actually worked and it didn’t feel forced at all.

Woody Harrelson as the Colonel gives a thrilling performance. He enslaves these apes in some kind of Holocaust like prison and the haunting imagery just showing that grim theme of no humanity for the future. He does give a scene that wises up as exposition but that didn’t bother me because it was interesting on why he’s the way he is. His portrayal as the film’s villain is well-realized and is given a realistic presence. He’s like Marlon Brando’s Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now which I can see that Reeves was influenced by while making the film.

Honestly, I had one issue that really had with the film is the pacing. That was a problem that I’ve been noticing in all three movies. Maybe because there isn’t that much action in this, but it becomes slow especially right before the climax for a little bit.

This is also one of those films where people are going to think that this is an action movie all the way through. It’s really more of a drama. Even though it has “War” in the title, doesn’t mean it’s really going to be apes having a full on battle against the humans. From watching the first two trailers (ignored the third), most just thought it would heavily show a lot of the action but it’s spread out to delve into the humanity of the apes and humans. Which did concern me after I got out, but after thinking about it, it really worked for what it was going for.

As it stands right now, this isn’t my favorite in the new franchise, but it’s gripping to the end and exceeded into having the third film be great. Although I wanted more action than some, War of the Planet of the Apes is monumental for a gripping story that feels brutal at times, and an Oscar-worthy performance from Serkis.

Though I might need to see this again, this is one of the best trilogies in a long time. One of the best movies of the summer.

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes is emotional, visually astonishing, and a dark and powerful end to a great trilogy.

Grade: A-

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