Review of 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

3rd film in the 'Planet of the Apes' series

war_for_the_planet_of_the_apes.jpg “War for the Planet of the Apes”…but not perhaps between the groups you might expect. You would be forgiven for thinking this was the war between the apes and humans particularly after the events of the last film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but you would be wrong.

Taking place a few years after the events of the previous film, “War for the Planet of the Apes” sees the sentient ape Caesar's (Andy Serkis) troop hiding away in a cave in the jungle. When his wife and child are killed by the sadistic “Colonel” (Woody Harrelson), leader of a small army, Caesar is wracked with grief. Sending the troop away to seek out safety Caesar goes off seeking revenge reluctantly accompanied by Maurice (Karin Konoval), his wise orangutan adviser, chimp Rocket (Terry Notary), and the gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). After Caesar kills a man threatening the small group they are joined by the man's orphaned child Nova (Amiah Miller) then later still by the somewhat eclectic “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn) who has been holed up in an abandoned ski resort at the top of a mountain. “Bad Ape” helps the group trace the colonel to the California border where they discover the troop have been captured and are being held in a camp. They learn that the Simian flu is mutating causing those originally immune to lose the power of thought and speech. The colonel believes that any humans exhibiting this behaviour should be immediately culled to prevent the spread of this new strain so now is preparing for war against not the apes but another group of humans who disagree with his thoughts on how to survive…

A suitable finale (?) to the recently re-vitalised “Planet of the Apes” franchise that brings a refreshing and admirable depth of thought and compassion to what could, frankly, simply be an excuse to show a lot of big action sequences with the mental depth of a late night television advertorial. Reeves is not afraid to slow down the pace to concentrate on the conflicting emotions of Caesar, the conflicting thoughts of revenge, the different ways that parents grieve at the loss of a child and the moral decisions required in a world gone mad. Don't get me wrong, there are some terrific action scenes (the finale is brutally spectacular) but there is a lot of time where the screen is simply of one of the characters deep in thought. The “Great Escape” aspect to the second half of the film is a bit corny but it is handled here quite well though fairly light-handed.

Serkis and Harrelson here are amazing and completely enthralling whenever they are on the screen (for different reasons, of course). Serkis is required to act more than he has previously with the motion capture work frankly beyond belief. Harrelson is chilling as the colonel though this revulsion is called into question when his story becomes clear. There are no black and white characters here which is nice to see in a modern block-buster. “Bad Ape” is a surprise hit providing much needed comedic relief to what would otherwise be a film drenched in despair.

Really enjoyed this one and pleased to see there is some intelligent big-budget films still being made. Don't expect a roller-coaster of non-stop action (roller-coaster, maybe, non-stop, definitely not) do expect quite a thought-provoking study of human nature along with some fantastic ape on human, human on human, and ape on ape action. Not sure how well the box office will do given that it is billed as a great big action flick…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-07-22

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Year: 2017

Length: 140 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films in the 'Planet of the Apes' series:

Other reviewed films by Matt Reeves: