Director: Matt Reeves
Run Time: 140 minutes
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
“War. War never changes”. These are the words that permeate your thoughts when watching the devastation that befalls Caesar. Andy Serkis’ emotional ape leader is well and truly put through the wringer in almost two-and-a-half hours of non-stop tension and aggression that sees his life torn in two. Ape strong, though, and Caesar must remain strong in the face of utter peril.
War For the Planet of the Apes picks off not long after the harrowing events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar is fighting a war that he didn’t start, but he needs to see it through to a conclusion that sees the apes he’s fighting for live safely and happily away from the humans. People are very much the bad guys here and are seen shooting anything vaguely ape-shaped. It makes sense, though. The simian flu has wiped out terrifyingly large numbers of the world’s population and is beginning to strike back – now turning humans into beasts who cannot talk. Oh, how the tables turn.
Caesar decides to show compassion in the face of evil at the film’s opening, an effort to end the war on a peaceful note. This doesn’t work and ends up with human soldiers learning the whereabouts of the apes and storming their home in the dead of night. The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) killing apes close to Caesar’s heart in the process. Caesar, filled with hate for the man decides that not only must every ape leave and find the promised land in the desert but to enact grisly revenge on the Colonel. This is a film that starts off loud and snarling, with the boom of guns whizzing by your head but turns into something quieter and more menacing. Just as with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War is a very smart film.
Yet again, the CGI is utterly fantastic. Caesar and his ape pals are so realistic, you’ll be rubbing your eyes in disbelief practically throughout the entire film. There are moments where the use of CGI is clear, but for a film where CGI plays such a big role, these are surprisingly few and far between. The mixture of live-action and CGI works a treat throughout in this very physical film. You can feel the power of the apes and their human counterparts thanks to some excellent editing and cinematography. Nothing in the film feels forced and director Matt Reeves never forgets that a picture can say a thousand words. Those expecting a violent war film with tonnes of action may walk away a little frustrated.
For a film about sentient apes, there’s an awful lot said about humanity. Instead of focusing on the violence and action of war, War For the Planet of the Apes focuses instead on the emotional impact and consequences. A lot is spoken of the morals of revenge and war, rather than showing lots of bullets and shells flying. There are plenty of action scenes here, but this is a lengthy film. Personally, I found the tone familiar to something such as Logan, or maybe even The Last of Us. It’s dark, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how tired, angry or upset you may be. This hope comes in the form of a little girl inflicted with the new strain of simian flu.
She never says a word, but she holds Caesar back from his violence, reminding him that the world has changed and is fragile, no matter the war. The Colonel’s back story plays a similar role. His is one of terrible hardships, with plenty of death he had to deal with personally. The way he dealt with his problems, however, were akin to a psychopath. He’s a terrible person but deeply wounded. He’s scared. Everyone in War For the Planet of the Apes is scared. War is a terrible thing anyway, but when the world is in as dire a state as it is here, it makes things even worse. War For the Planet of the Apes is a dark film full of hate, violence, and sadness. Each of these themes is handled expertly.
You will see lingering shots of someone’s face, whether man or ape. Each one full of emotion. The camera shows exactly what is required, with nothing needless added. War For the Planet of the Apes is all thriller, no filler. You may not appreciate the overall dark tone to the film, but there are moments of light, especially when the little girl gets involved. There are plenty of touching scenes and there’s even some comedy in the form of Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape. At first, you may feel like the comedy is at odds with the darkness surrounding Caesar’s tale of grisly revenge, but it will grow on you towards the end. A nice reprieve from the snarling tension and violence that Matt Reeves so expertly weaves.
War For the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film. It provides a stellar, fitting end to a wonderful trilogy and cements Matt Reeves further as a talented director. This is thought-provoking, smart blockbuster material at its best. You’ll care more for a band of CGI apes than you will most other people in this year’s cinematic offerings. This is a bold, powerful and exciting tale about death, love and war. Apes strong.
War For the Planet of the Apes offers up a spectacular slice of smart, powerful blockbuster action.