The First Trilogy of the Reboot of the Planet of the Apes Concludes With A Breathtaking & Heart Pounding Ending
In the age of cinematic universes, film reboots, remakes, and endless sequels, there is one franchise that gets it right with each new chapter. That franchise is The Planet of the Apes reboot/prequel trilogy. War for the Planet of the Apes continues the trend of saga one-upping its predecessor with each new addition to the story. The film gives a satisfying and heart pounding ending to the first trilogy. You know a story is successful when it has you cheering for computer generated apes to defeat your own species. With a moving storyline and breathtaking special effects, director Matt Reeves delivers one of the best films of the year and debatably one of the best third chapters of a trilogy in film history.
In War for the Planet of the Apes, we find Caesar (Andy Serkis) still reeling from the effects of Koba’s rebellion that took place in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is endlessly hunting down the apes and keeping Caesar on the run at all times. After the maniacal warlord finds the ape’s hidden settlement and delivers a devastating blow to their civilization, Caesar sets off to end the War once and for all. With the aid of friends, old and new, Caesar tracks the soldiers through the snowy California mountains and looks to end The Colonel’s reign. The stakes are high. Whoever wins this War becomes the dominant species on Earth.
Bringing the ape Caesar to life with the power of motion capture technology is Andy Serkis. His third go at the character is his best performance of his career, and that’s saying something after seeing the first two films in the saga. Serkis makes you believe this super intelligent chimp is real. His emotions pull at your heart strings and his mannerism are so detailed and ape-like it’s hard to believe there’s a man behind the performance. There are few cinematic characters in film these days that you feel so attached to and Caesar is easily among the greatest of them. How can an ape be so relatable? Serkis deserves major accolades for his portrayal and bringing this powerful character to the big screen.
As the object of Caesar’s torment, Woody Harrelson as The Colonel portrays the best villain of the trilogy. Yet, the man isn’t exactly evil. He’s absolutely crazy. Harrelson gives the audience a character that’s difficult cheer for even though you understand he is fighting for the survival of the human race. The exchanges between Caesar and The Colonel provide the film with some of the most tense and heartfelt scenes. Two leaders doing what they feel is best for their people and two fathers who have suffered through a lot of loss during the collapse of mankind and rise of the apes. At moments you understand The Colonel’s reasonings, but you still root for his defeat despite knowing it means the end of humankind as we know it.
The Planet of the Apes trilogy has given fans a lot of great supporting ape cast members to fall in love with over the course of the films. From Maurice to Rocket and even Koba had his moments. The newest member of that crew is Bad Ape. Steve Zahn brings us this loveable and humorous character that is just what this film needs to cut through the heavy moments. While Zahn presents many of the film’s laughs, the character isn’t just comic relief. There’s a lot heart poured into the character. Zahn’s performance is best seen through Bad Ape’s eyes. They are gentle eyes that have seen a lot during his time alone. After you meet Bad Ape, you’ll want more of him. The film delivers just the right amount of the character in the film. However, this is a new character you could build a new trilogy around.
The greatest achievement this film accomplishes is providing believable ape characters that build a strong connection with the viewers. It’s not difficult to want these apes to succeed and thrive, even at the cost of your own species. The real humanity in this film lies within the ape society, while man continues to destroy itself from within. The performances from the whole cast help in this regard, but it’s hard to not to give a lot of credit to the special effects, as well. There are moments when you forget this isn’t a real world full of talking apes. The past two films in the franchise have phenomenal effects. However, this is the first film that truly transcends the dreaded uncanny valley of CGI. I had to remember to close my mouth after some of the emotional scenes of this film, they truly took my breath away.
Another amazing feat for War for the Planet is the quality of storytelling Matt Reeves is able to give with so little dialogue. Each chapter of the saga seems to have less and less talking and really I think that makes each one better than the last. The fact that Reeves is able to tell such a satisfying story with so few words is a testament to his skills as a director and screenwriter. While there are a lot of moments of sign language and other non-verbal communication, there are even more moments of silence. This makes the scenes with character interaction and talking that much more gratifying. There are only words when we need words. For most of the film, there is no need.
From the opening battle scene full of wide open shots to the emotional scenes full of close-ups, Reeves paints a picture with the camera that is truly a work of art. There are few blockbuster films that actually feel like the production team is actually working on making a great film. Sometimes movies feel like a cash in, especially the franchises with many chapters. War for the Planet of the Apes continues to be the exception to that rule. While many cinematic universes provide a film we want for our entertainment demands, in truth, these films have become a need. Hollywood needs more films and franchises with this much heart, care, and soul thrown into the creation of every detail. Even the references to the classics that launched the saga back in 1968 are well thought out and inspiring.
With breathtaking visuals, heart warming character arcs, and a villain that’s easy to root against, War for the Planet of the Apes is a great finish to the trilogy. With new characters both ape and human to grow attached to and old favorites that continue to shine, the film gives fans something unique yet familiar to enjoy. There is only one issue some might have with the film. For a film with War in the title, the film can get a little slow. If you expecting an action movie, you might get disappointed. While there is plenty of action, the real heart of this film is the character development and story telling. The action is just an extra bonus.
After three films, War for the Planet of the Apes puts fans at the destination we’ve all been waiting for since Caesar was born. The future looks bright for our ape friends. Maybe we can finally drop the first three words of the next film’s title. I think it’s time to simply enjoy an amazing retelling of the classic Planet of the Apes. It’s been a long road to this moment, but it’s totally worth the ride. Now, it’s time for Taylor to come home.
Supchucks’ Official Grade: A-
War for the Planet of the Apes Official Synopsis:
Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. 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 their species and the future of the planet.
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Toby Kebbell, Gabriel Chavarria, and Judy Greer.
Director(s): Matt Reeves
Writer(s): Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images)
Runtime: 140 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox