War for the Planet of the Apes Review
War for the Planet of the Apes is a science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback and Reeves. It is the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and stars Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson. Prior to watching this film, the entire Planet of the Apes franchise including some for the first time like the ones in this trilogy was watched and reviewed: Take Your Hands off Me You Damned Dirty Ape!
The Story/The Direction:
After the events of the prior films (both of which are surmised in the first minute of this film in case you hadn't seen them), Caesar (Serkis) and his ape family are hiding out in the woods only trying to survive. Blue Eyes, Caesar's son, comes home from a long journey and states that he found a new paradise for the apes to restart. Prior to them leaving, the humans led by the Colonel (Harrelson) come to their sanctuary and cause Caeser and a few friends to go after them. The majority of the film shows how Caeser just wants to be left alone but is drawn back into conflict by the humans who think they are superior. I also personally loved how they showed Caeser's dealing with human emotions such as anger, sadness, and guilt. The latter I enjoyed especially with his PTSD from the events of Dawn. As the story plays out, you see Reeves direction really shine.
Reeves decided to focus about 80% on the film on Caeser's journey. He chooses to combine a western with a biblical epic, a Vietnam War film, and Roots. The Vietnam War films are clearly shown through the opening feeling like Platoon and Apocalypse Now, with the latter even being shown through a graffiti mark stating "Ape-pocolypse Now." The western is shown as the apes ride on horseback like cowboys riding to rid the area of the black hats. By mixing these genres and telling the story through Caeser's eyes, you understand his reasoning. Reeves shows that Caeser just wants his people to be free, similar to that of Moses and his freeing of the Jews from Egypt. This film even culminates with a closing of the Red Sea of sorts. Caeser doesn't want to be violent but will if he has to defend his people. This is what drives him. He is ready to lay down his life and be whipped to keep his people safe from brutality. What adds to the tension of this story is Michael Giacchino's score. It is absolutely chilling and flows naturally with the film as it is a mix of the above gentes as well. In addition, the motion-capture of the apes themselves is absolutely fantastic. It is amazing to me how real the apes looked. This aspect of the films in the trilogy has always been praised but I feel it was better here than in the other films.
The star of this film is obviously Serkis. This man deserves at least a nomination of some sort. The argument against him "not acting," is preposterous as for anyone who has seen how motion capture is done, you know that every reaction and every emotion is shown on screen just as much as any other acting role that doesn't involve an ape character. As the story is told, Caeser goes through a lot of different emotions and Serkis emulates all of them with such dexterity that you feel each of them as he does. When he cries, you feel for him and the pain he is going through.
I also think Harrelson does a good job in his role as the Colonel who furthers the comparison to Apocalypse Now. Harrelson is clearly having fun with this role and it was great seeing him play a villain. He made the character very intimidating and had a very strong presence on screen.
The biggest flaw for me was that this film tried to embed comedy. A scene could be really tense and then Steve Zahn's Bad Ape character would say something stupid to get a laugh. The title of the film is also misleading as there's no real war going on that we see. It's not really a battle movie that you may think it may be with a title that includes the word "war" in it. While I was fine with focusing on Caeser instead of going back and forth between his character and the Colonel and the film is more in a Moses-like western genre, "war" just seems the wrong word. It's not a big issue but if you're expecting a war film, you'll be disappointed.
This trilogy is one of the best that has been done in cinema due to its complete story arc of the Caeser character. You see him born and see him all through his life. Though Dawn is better, this film is fantastic as well. As with the prior films, the throwbacks to the original films to sort of tying them in were great. This film allows for sequels but also doesn't require it. Where this story ultimately goes is known thanks to the older films. This film has flawless motion capture work, phenomenal acting by Serkis, great direction by Reeves and a score that gives you chills. Definitely, try to see this film in theatres.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
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