Back in 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released, showcasing the origins on how Apes became intelligent, introducing our protagonist Caesar, and offering a commentary on animal experimentation and cruelty. With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we were given an even better film, with its thrilling action and a fleshed out set of antagonists. Commentating on militarism and whether or not two very different groups can live/cooperate together in peace. Now, with War for the Planet of the Apes, we are given the best in the trilogy. We are thrown into an even bleaker world, where both humanity and apes are on their last leg, with one trying to wipe out the other; as well as being a deeply emotional journey for Caesar.
What we have here, is one of the best blockbusters of the summer; you will leave the theater emotional. The trailers do a fantastic job at not revealing any of the key points and plot in the film. When you walk into the theater you most likely had an idea of where the story would go, beat for beat, but the film takes you places you wouldn’t necessarily expect. While there is action, this is very much a drama, that is heavily character driven. The film makes you think, questioning yourself on what you would do if put in a similar situation. There is also strong imagery, most very reminiscent of the Holocaust and other labor camps, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it either. There are moments of silence when it’s just the apes communicating through sign language. Their expressions and the score elevate the actor’s performances and this is where I give props to director Matt Reeves.
Now you cannot talk about this film without talking about Andy Serkis’s amazing performance as Caesar. There is a hole in Caesar’s heart and he goes on a quest that he may or may not come back from. The amount of depth and expression captured in Serkis’s performance as Caesar has never been better. What makes Caesar such a compelling character and great hero is that he has flaws. He begins to make selfish decisions for himself, rather than the rest of the apes, but again, this is where you ask yourself, what would you do? Though the decisions he makes may seem selfish, you understand why he’s making them in the first place. Hell if I was in his position, I’d probably do the same thing. He’s a tortured soul in this film, the actions of his past haunt him, and he walks that line between an Ape and animal. Never has Caesar been better developed and searched than in this film.
While the this is a very personal film for Caesar, the supporting characters are used perfectly. The orangutan Maurice is back and he works as Caesar’s conscience, trying to clear Caesar’s head. We also have the chimpanzee Rocket who plays Caesar’s second-in-command and is willing to sacrifice his life for him and the apes. New characters like Bad Ape, who is the comedic relief, could’ve easily been annoying, but we actually get a very humorous, charming, and sympathetic character you grow to love. We are also introduced to a little girl named Nova who Maurice adopts. She’s charming and cute, however, you never fully grasp the reason why she’s really in this film, until the end where it connects to her and you realize how she is a bridge between man and ape. Now some critiques of the past two films were its human characters. They were never as interesting or captivating as Caesar and the apes. In War, that is not an issue as the film mainly focuses on Caesar and the apes.
That said, there are still human characters, specifically the antagonist, Woody Harrelson as The Colonel. A ruthless, militant leader, with no remorse what so ever. You understand where he’s coming from, having the fear of having humanity extinct can cause a lot of men to go crazy. And while some villains can be sympathetic to their cause, The Colonel is anything but. You understand his actions from his point of view, but you don’t feel sorry for him and Woody Harrelson plays the character brilliantly. The length this man is willing to go to preserve humanity leads him down a path that he cannot escape. For it is fear and paranoia that may lead humanity to the brink of extinction.
Another star of the film is the people behind the camera, creating the actors to become apes on screen. While the CGI in Rise is good, it is dated and Dawn was an improvement, War gives us the best effects possible. As the years go by the technology can only get better and it certainly does in this film. Their movements, their expressions, it’s all too real, it’s impossible to spot a problem in the special effects.
What’s so amazing about this new trilogy is that each film is great on their own, but each sequel gets progressively better. If you were to watch all three films at once you will realize how seamless the story of Caesar is. Everything flows beautifully and ends with an emotional gut punch that is actually the perfect ending to this incredible trilogy. A true Hollywood blockbuster filled with heart, from a director with a vision.
Have you seen War for the Planet of the Apes yet? If so, what did you think of it? If you haven’t go buy a ticket!