As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. 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 their species and the future of the planet.Written by
Those damn dirty apes have pulled off a great trilogy
The new 'Planet of the Apes' franchise has been an unexpected and surprising success, easily equaling the quality of its iconic ancestral lineage, or even arguably surpassing it. 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' was always going to be a tough act to follow but thankfully 'War' bucks the trilogy trend of the third film often being a lesser installment. It's not as well executed or as well structured as 'Dawn', but it's an excellent film nonetheless and builds upon an already rich mythology that offers up an elaborate explanation as to how Charlton Heston came back from space to find himself on a damn monkey planet.
Matt Reeves returns for directing duties and recaptures the same foreboding and tension he evoked the last time around. This is a very downbeat and bleak movie, so much so I actually had to remind myself that this is a summer blockbuster produced and released by 20th Century Fox. It's incredible to think that something as dark as this can still sneak under the wire and into the mainstream, and we should all be thankful of that fact. Andy Serkis has graduated across the series from being the plot device of 'Rise', to the dual protagonist of 'Dawn', to the full-on lead character of 'War', and his motion captured performance is truly remarkable. You can even tell it's his face at certain points - a sneer here, a frown there - and I fully believe this performance should qualify him for an Academy Award nomination for Lead Actor. He's the crown jewel of this franchise and he leads the charge from beginning to end this time around. I also have to make room for Steve Zahn's performance as a newly introduced ape, who is about the closest thing to a comic relief this film gets and his comic timing and tender eccentricity allows some breathing room between all the doom and gloom. The crowning achievement of this trilogy is its ability to seamlessly blend technological craft with human artistry. I have always favoured practical effects over CGI, but my god, even I can't deny just how magnificent the visual effects are. This is as close to photo- real you will see.
The title of the film is somewhat of a mislead since it's a much smaller and more intimate story this time around, and I feel there was more of an epic war taking place in 'Dawn'. This is much more of a revenge tale, framed through the eyes of our protagonist Caesar, who we have seen grow up and mature into a leader across the two previous films, which lends a greater sense of dimension and complexity to his character. Watching him and his clan strike back against the remnants of the human race becomes an interesting exercise for us. As human beings we are naturally predisposed to the survival of our species, even in fiction, and usually films set in a post-apocalyptic world tend to lean heavily towards that as the goal. The 'Apes' films ask us to do something else - they ask us to root AGAINST the human race, and that does create a conflict within us as viewers. Not all humans are bad, and we know where this story is taking us once you factor in 'Planet of the Apes' 1968, yet at the same time these apes are every bit as complex and fallible and heroic and dangerous as we are. They have an equal right to live and build a future together. And while this film definitely comes down on the side of the apes, unlike 'Dawn' which showed the failings of both sides to make peace, it is a strange experience rooting for them to win this time around since there are no real human allies like James Franco or Jason Clarke's characters. In any other film, the apes would be the villains and Woody Harrelson's Colonel character makes a good case as to why he sees it that way, even though the filmmakers jettison his humanity in order to paint him as a more out-and-out villain. After all, we, the audience, have to be on side come the finale, especially come the arrival of an unexpected deus ex machina.
This has been an intelligent and emotionally and morally complex series of films that have raised interesting questions about animal rights, speciesism, societal hierarchies, leadership and subservience, communication, conflict and peace. They are not simply mindless sci- fi movies cashing in on an existing property. Both of the previous films have been deeply thoughtful explorations of those aforementioned themes and ideas. So I am very pleased to report that 'War for the Planet of the Apes' proudly carries that torch all the way through to its beautifully biblical final moments.
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