War for the Planet of the Apes Review


By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

“Summer” and “blockbuster” are two words that go hand in hand. Unfortunately for summer 2017, things haven’t started out so well. With the exception of Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the would-be summer blockbusters would be more aptly referred to as lacklusters. The Mummy and Transformers: The Last Knight have vastly underperformed, and the latest Pirates of the Caribbean – though having done much better than the aforementioned films – isn’t quite up to expected box office goals. Thankfully, with the summer solstice now in our rearview mirror, the real summer extravaganzas can come forth. War for the Planet of the Apes is the third, and final, film in the Planet of the Apes trilogy and may actually be the best in the series.

It’s been two years since the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which evil ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) tried to start a war with the humans. The effects of those actions are still felt, with the leader of the apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis), having moved the apes into the forest to a waterfall hideout. Yet, with fear and misunderstanding, others would continue the war, and Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson) is hell-bent on destroying Caesar and the apes. After a covert attack by the Colonel, Caesar realizes the humans are not going to give up their pursuit to destroy the apes, despite Caesar’s words. And after everything that’s been done, he is ready to end this war once and for all. Therefore he sets out to find the Colonel, with a small group consisting of Rocket (Terry Notary), right-hand orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), and sensitive gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Caesar must fight on multiple fronts: the humans that would kill his people, and the dark torment of vengeance building inside of him. Thus the stage is set for a showdown between ideals and firepower, with the future of humanity and ape lying in the balance.

Those expecting an adrenaline rush from astounding battlefield heroics and non-stop action are going to be sorely disappointed. Aside from the intense raid on Caesar’s compound in the beginning and the final sequence at the end, the rest of the film is devoid of much action, focusing more on building the characters and the tension that surrounds all living beings’ way of life at this time. With the majority of the human population being wiped out by the Simian virus, this is a film very much about life. What does it mean to be alive? What are the things that really hold value in this world? What would we do to ensure the safety of those we care for and how far would we go if pushed beyond our limits? Director Matt Reeves jumped in and helped write the script and made that decision to focus so much more on Caesar’s mindset and the emotion and life of what he’s gone through and his pledge to protect apes. It also shows how such unstable emotion in someone can be redirected, as is the case when Caesar and his group come upon a young girl (Amiah Miller) who has lost the ability to speak due to the Simian virus. Caesar reluctantly takes this girl in, and with what has happened, it may have been the best thing to reset his mind state and refocus his efforts. And all of this is accomplished with superb motion capture actors and inspired CGI throughout.

Andy Serkis has been, and will always be, the heart and soul of this series. From the original film, not only did he create the physical being of Caesar, but he has brought such fervent emotion and intensity to the role that we relate to; we empathize with an ape that learned to talk, to think, and evolve. Serkis is given so much more to work with in this final installment, completely evolving the character more than we saw in the first two films combined. He takes Caesar to the brink of breaking, physically and mentally, yet somehow has the essence and state of mind to process what is happening, why he is in the state he is in, and, at times, chooses the road less traveled. Considering what the character goes through, it would be hard for anyone to make the right choices, yet Serkis takes us physically, mentally, and emotionally through this entire gamut of life with his powerful performance. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, is all things we can say are wrong with humanity, yet once we understand his motivation, we see that he and Caesar are similar on many levels, but the way they go about dealing with their mental and emotional baggage is very different. Harrelson takes the character in a direction where we almost see a role reversal, where Caesar is the clear-thinking human and Harrelson is the more mindless animal, relying on emotion to drive his actions. Yet with the background of Harrelson’s Colonel, he still comes off as very one-dimensional.

There is so much that can be said of this film in terms of the technical side of things, from production design all the way through to sound, music, and the magical effects which enhance the piece, but War for the Planet of the Apes truly belongs to its actors. It is the actors who drive this story along, with Caesar and his group making the long trek to northern California for the final showdown. And for all of the accomplishments Serkis has made to the field of motion capture acting, Caesar is by far his greatest accomplishment. War for the Planet of the Apes is a blockbuster film of heroic proportions. And while it may be a little long in the third act of the film, this is a conclusive film to the trilogy and Caesar’s story deserved to be told in its entirety.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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