Saturday 29 July 2017

Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves affords the Planet of the Apes series a satisfying and compelling concluding chapter in War for the Planet of the Apes.

After a brief recap of where the previous film left off, War for the Planet of the Apes puts us in the midst of its titular conflict. Two years have passed since Koba (Toby Kebbell) shattered the fragile peace between humans and apes, with apes leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) retreating into the woods to keep his people sheltered.

A brief skirmish ends with Caesar sparing the lives of some human soldiers, and their vengeful leader – simply called The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) – chooses to refuse Caesar's proverbial olive branch, launching an assault on the apes' colony. After the apes suffer heavy losses, Caesar and his most loyal followers – Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) – set off in pursuit, determined to exact revenge of the Colonel.

With director Matt Reeves at the helm, the rebooted Planet of the Apes series proves itself to be one of the most compelling, haunting and emotional studio tentpoles around. This third entry brings the trilogy to a satisfying close through an innately personal narrative that doesn't up the ante just for the sake of it.

If anything, this is the smallest and least bombastic of the three; despite what the title would have you believe, this is not so much a war as it is a struggle; it's not even for the entire planet, rather more for survival. I guess 'Struggle for the Survival of the Apes' didn't poll as well with focus groups.

Snark aside, this is a genuinely excellent concluding chapter that feels like a natural evolution of the two preceding chapters. The plot – which I won't delve into too much – goes in directions I wasn't expecting, aping (pun intended) some classic war movies in the process. There are even some sweeping Biblical undertones thrown in there. And yet, War isn't a patchwork quilt of other ideas with apes sewn in.

It's undeniably Planet of the Apes, from borrowing namesakes (like a small human girl called Nova, played by Amiah Miller) to the political and racial parallels that underscore the narrative. Those enticed by the promise of straight-up war might feel a little shortchanged – the second act in particular is surprisingly quiet and sombre – but in its place Reeves serves up lashings of depth for his characters, a rich landscape captured by beautiful cinematography and an abundance of commentary for those looking for something meatier to chew on.

Serkis is once again brilliant as Caesar; his performance continues to imbue the character with a broad range of human emotion, from compassion and courage to anger and desperation. Of course, a lot of this success can be attributed to the swathes of motion capture experts and visual effects artists who work behind-the-scenes; Caesar, and every ape in this film for that matter, is a staggering achievement for visual effects that should not go overlooked.

From the rest of the cast, Steve Zahn stood out as a new character called Bad Ape. There really isn't anything I can fault the simian cast on; the motion capture, choreography and everything in between is flawless.

Harrelson is an interesting choice for the lead antagonist and, even though I admire where he went with the character, I ultimately thought he was at odds with the material and simply not the right casting choice. It doesn't help that he is lumbered with the bulk of the lengthy exposition, another notable failing in an otherwise sublime film.

The Verdict: 9/10 

The rebooted Planet of the Apes draws to a close in powerful and compelling fashion. Serkis continues to impress and Reeves once again proves himself to be a confident big-budget filmmaker. On a technical level – visual effects, score, cinematography – this film is a winner. If only there hadn't been such a chunky exposition dump in the second act...

War for the Planet of the Apes is in cinemas across Australia now.


  1. If this doesn't win the Best Visual Effects Oscar I may scream.

    1. Might have some stiff competition though with Blade Runner now hitting it out the park :)

  2. I loved this movie. So glad you did, as well. The only place where I think we disagree is on Harrelson. I really liked him here and thought he was a fine choice.

    1. That's cool, I can respect that he's an unconventional choice. Personally I struggled to see him as anything other than his usual cool Woody persona :)



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