The apes have risen. Their age has dawned. Now witness their war!
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third film in the reboot series and pits Caesar and his clan of apes against a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his army of soldiers in a conflict that will decide which species shall rule the planet.
To start off, let’s talk about what this movie gets wrong. Trust me, there is very little. The movie begins with a brief summary of Rise and Dawn with a couple of sentences for each film. Although it does lead into several sentences that set the stage for War, it is as if the filmmakers assume the audience did not see Rise and Dawn or that they forgot about those films. The latter seems more plausible given the fact that these movies are released, people love them, and then they aren’t talked about until we get the next one. Regardless, you shouldn’t make it feel like you don’t think the audience hasn’t seen your last two films.
Secondly, Woody Harrelson’s character of simply the Colonel was overhyped from the trailers. All of his speeches to the soldiers were cut and he only has one scene of development. Some of it is an exposition dump, but Matt Reeves’s writing with Mark Bomback, his directing, and Harrelson’s acting all make the scene in question powerful and sympathetic for the Colonel. However, when you go into this movie, lower your expectations for him. The trailers built War up to be about Caesar fighting the Colonel, and it still is, but one can argue it focuses more on Caesar’s personal demons.
That said, let’s get into the hits of War. We see Caesar go down a dark path, which leads into the most compelling and emotional Apes story yet. He has had enough and knows that the humans will stop at nothing to wipe the apes out, so Caesar goes to great lengths to protect his family and clan. All of the elements from Andy Serkis’s acting to Reeves’s directing and writing come together to create a satisfying and enthralling tale of Caesar’s quest for vengeance. Serkis’s performance in War puts him at the height of his power. His third go at Caesar rivals his work in either of the last two Lord of the Rings films. Serkis conveys Caesar’s emotions, conflict, and turmoil in such spectacular fashion, he needs to be nominated for an Oscar already.
Rather than just Serkis and Harrelson, all of the actors and actresses form the best ensemble of the year so far. Amiah Miller shines in her breakout role as Nova, a little girl who Caesar and Maurice find alone and care for. Steve Zahn delivers one of his best performances as Bad Ape, the amusing comic relief in an otherwise gritty and somber film. Karin Konoval and Terry Notary are better than ever as Maurice and Rocket, respectively. Finally, Ty Olsson as Red, a gorilla who betrays Caesar and fights for the Colonel, and Michael Adamthwaite as Luca, an ape who is loyal to Caesar, are both great in their own rights.
Drop all expectations that this will be a non-stop war movie right now. Just like with Dawn, War is a complex thinking movie. There is plenty of great action to go around, but the filmmakers were more concerned with telling a smart story instead of just blowing things up left and right. As mentioned before, Caesar takes a dark road, and his actions and conflicting morals make the audience question the character. Not everything is so plain and simple as beating the bad guy. Any movie with a morally conflicted character done right usually turns out amazing–Frodo’s battle within himself has the viewer thinking if he will fulfill his mission to destroy the One Ring. Captain America’s decision to aid Bucky instead of serve the people as a whole suddenly makes him that much more complicated. Rick helping Ilsa and Laszlo in Casablanca goes against everything he previously said he was about. All of these are examples of conflicted characters in astonishing films who become morally conflicted by their stories, and Caesar is done even better than all of them in War. You as the viewer should question him because you don’t know what he will do next or where he will end up because of his actions. In the end, a story that challenges the morality of the main character is one of the best ways to make a movie and it can even create some of the best.
They didn’t use actors for this movie; no, they used real apes and trained them to act and speak. That is how amazing the CGI is! Actors may have done the motion capture, of course, but you can’t tell the difference anymore. This series of Apes movies have always been able to achieve this for the most part, but War pulls it off better than ever. You are able to get fully immersed in the visuals, you forget you are looking at something that came out of a computer. It would be a crime against the industry itself if the special effects work was not recognized by more than just the critics.
In the end, War for the Planet of the Apes must be seen because the incredible acting, morally complex plot, and visual effects all make it the best conclusion to a trilogy since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
War for the Planet of the Apes gets an A+
“You never really know why you become an actor; it’s a visceral thing, an emotional thing.”-Andy Serkis
If you haven’t already, you can check out my reviews of the previous two films below!
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