Title: War for the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
The hardest thing for a trilogy to do is to continue to get better one after another. Most movie trilogies either kick off with a bang and then have two others that are good, but not nearly as good as the first one. A great example being the Back to the Future trilogy. Also many trilogies hit a home run with their second film, and then end it with a mediocre film to wrap up the trilogy. A great example being the Dark Knight trilogy. However, every so often a movie trilogy comes a long and not only blows everyone’s expectations out the door, but also offers three movies that continue to get better and actually end with a film that is pure greatness. I think it is safe to say that this new Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy belongs in that category. War for the Planet of the Apes is pure greatness.
This is the third and final film in the trilogy and the second movie, in the trilogy, directed by the ever-so-talented Matt Reeves. Keep an eye out for that man, he his truly a special filmmaker. War follows Caesar the ape, played once again by the great Andy Serkis, as he finds himself forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel played by 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.
One of the biggest compliments I can give this film is how unpredictable it is. When looking at the title of the film, most people would think this would be a straight up war film. Apes vs. Humans. That’s certainly what I expected coming in to watch it. However, what War does is give you an expectation, and twists it around and somehow exceeds what you were hoping to see. This film blends so many great genres into one awesome package. Adventure, revenge thriller, biblical epic, and even prison escape. This film doesn’t rely entirely on what the second film did. Which was mainly a lot of great action and grand battle sequences between humans and soldiers. It does something completely new and unique in the franchise, and in films in general. I never have seen a film quite like this, and I reckon you probably haven’t either.
War focuses almost entirely on Caesar and how empathetic and intimate he is as a character. The film teaches us that when you become less empathetic of others, it becomes easier to knock you down. It’s very emotionally engaging. I found myself teary eyed during many scenes in the film. And the film’s main characters are all performance captured apes! It has a very unpredictable plot, but at the same time, perfectly closes the trilogy and the character of Caesar. Caesar will go down as one of the great characters in movie history. The performance capture is incredible here. It’s pretty amazing finding out what the actors had to go through to perform as well and realistic as they appeared in the movie. Matt Reeves in an interview even said that they had to go through an “ape camp” to completely commit and transform themselves to actual apes. Steve Zahn who plays “Bad Ape” in the film does a marvelous job portraying an actual ape, but at the same time humanizing him. It’s a performance that could have gone terribly off the rails given in the wrong hands, but Zahn makes it his own. Kind of like Frank Oz’s work with Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back. He was a real scene stealer, and a much-needed comic relief in a story that gets very brutal and heartbreaking. While you’re watching this movie, I guarantee you will immediately forget about the performance capture work that is being done, not because it’s bad, but because it works extremely well, and they look realistic. Seriously, if the visual effects don’t get nominated for an Oscar, I’m going to riot!
Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is a perfect closer to a great trilogy that not only drives the character of Caesar even further into vengeance, but also says even more about the story and how far the universe has gotten into destruction. Reeves does a marvelous job creating a world that is not only believable, but very bleak. If you’ve seen the previous two films, you understand how far they have all come, and how the world is continuing to crumble before our very eyes. It’s easy to empathize greatly with the humans, but somehow even more so with the apes. The apes are the main focus here, and we care so much about Caesar and his ape pals. War has everything you would want in a blockbuster film. Giant set-pieces, brutal action sequences, memorable characters, and an emotionally invested story. Reeves was inspired by many of the great biblical epics of the 1950’s like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, and it really shows here. Besides the great directing and acting, the score is also magnificent from Michael Giacchino (my favorite current film composer). This is also the best screenplay yet in the trilogy, and of course the visual effects are some of the best you will ever see. I highly recommend watching this movie, or the previous two films in the trilogy, and then watching War, because this is easily one of the best movie trilogies of all time. My grade for this film is: