War for the Planet of the Apes absolutely lives up to it’s title, as the final film in this new Apes trilogy brings emotional resonance and bold ambitious storytelling like no other sci-fi franchise before it. Matt Reeves returns to the Director Chair after the critically and financially successful Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, along with Co-writer Mark Bomback to deliver this breathtaking finale. Don’t be fooled by the marketing and trailers for War, though. While it does maintain it’s action and spectacle that Dawn had to offer, War for the Planet of the Apes chooses to focus on a more subtle approach to the film, with the war beings as much on the inside of our characters than the outside.
War takes place two years after the vicious and intense conflict that transpired in Dawn, with Caesar and his fellow apes deep in the woods and the human military, led by the Colonel, on a mission to kill Caesar. The failed attempt on his life sends Caesar and his most loyal followers on a revenge-bent mission to kill the Colonel. The brilliance of War for the Planet of the Apes lies in multiple aspects of production, namely the director, cinematography, and it’s brilliant cast, both in and out of mo-cap suits. Andy Serkis delivers what is probably his best and most emotional motion capture performance yet as the Ape leader Caesar. Viewers have grown to care and root for the Ape protagonist, and Matt Reeves is able to pick up the character where he left him in Dawn and expand more on the character as a whole. The animation and CGI work on the Apes as a whole is astoudning to see, with the Apes being extremely life like, the CGI and animation is on a whole other level than any other film before it.
Karin Konoval returns as Caesar’s oldest and most loyal companion Maurice, and Terry Notary as Rocket with both providing strong support performances. A particular scene stealer is Steve Zahn as new character ‘Bad Ape’, who provides some levity and wit with his performance to provide some much needed humor to an otherwise dreary and dark film. The humor is not too much or over the top, either, but just enough to provide some relief to the tension of the film. There are other great Ape characters that fit into the film as well, with the overarching narrative benefiting greatly from these well fleshed out, CGI Simians.
On the human side of things, Woody Harrelson plays The Colonel, and gives a wonderful, deranged performance as a crazy military leader, one akin to Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. War of the Planet of the Apes is, in a sense, a homage to the film Apocalypse Now in the way that it’s protagonist and antagonists are set up, with Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback genuinely setting up Caesar and the Colonel on a path similar to Willard and Kurtz in the classic war film, one of the many reasons that War for the Planet of the Apes works so well. The only complaint story wise would be an overall issue in pacing towards the beginning of the second act of the film, but even that is a nitpick. On top of all of this, Cinematographer Michael Seresin uses the beautiful and natural landscape to compliment the just as beautiful weta creations that are the CGI Apes. The stunning natural backdrop that Seresin has at his disposal for most of the film allows for a very natural color palette that works extremely well for this film.
Overall, thanks to stunning state of the art next level special effects, beautiful cinematography, and a strong emotional story with equally emotionally resonant characters, War for the Planet of the Apes manages to do the seemingly impossible and cap off a trilogy in an amazing way. If there is one Summer Blockbuster you should see, it is most definitely War for the Planet of the Apes. – Ernesto Valenzuela
GRADE – 9.5 / 10
War for the Planet of the Apes Opens in Theaters July 14th, 2017
War for the Planet of the Apes – Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (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.