War for the planet of the Apes is an emotionally charged and highly entertaining finale to the “Apes” trilogy.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third and final installment in the “Apes” trilogy. The film picks up almost exactly where the last one (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) ended. Humans and Apes wage a bloody war for control of earth and are seemingly driving each other to extinction. The apes, led by the charismatic Caesar and the more peaceful of the two factions are looking for ways to end the war and live out their days in peace. A ceasefire seems close when the humans, led by Colonel McCullough deal a massive blow to the apes camp leaving them devastated. Caesar decides to send his tribe away, to look for more peaceful lands to the west, far away from the humans where they can live out their days in peace. He then decides to seek revenge on McCullough followed by his most trusted companions. The journey will take them far out west and ultimately decide the fate of both humans and apes.
War for the planet of the Apes is probably the strongest film in the trilogy. It’s almost solely focused on the titular apes and that turns out to be a slam dunk. “Dawn” tried too much to set up an “apes vs humans” scenario with screen time divided equally between the two. In this one, we really follow the apes from beginning to end. We care for them, root for them and cry for them. The humans are the bad guys of the film and that is clear right from the start. They show no mercy or diplomacy and employ deserter apes which are labeled “donkeys” that are basically slaves for them. Sometimes it’s little bit too much on the nose but ultimately you can’t help but take the apes’ side against the humans
The film has some truly breathtaking visual and special effects. A true summer blockbuster with all its grandeur. And the apes. How glorious they look. Living, breathing creatures with vastly different facial expressions and characteristics. A mix of motion capture and special effects, the film is a sure front runner in the technical area come award season.
Andy Serkis is the true star of the film. His portrayal as Caesar is so impressive that the Oscar’s should simply invent an award for motion capture performance. Serkis truly shines as the reluctant and conflicted leader of the apes. Caesar is a father, leader, villain, and hero. All showcased by Serkis’ unbelievable performance. The range of emotion that shines through a chimpanzee is breathtaking and cements Andy Serkis as the greatest motion capture actor of all time.
Colonel McCullough is the film’s main antagonist and is given a solid performance by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson drops his trademark southern accent for the film which is a good thing. Otherwise, his portrayal of an American army general might have been a little bit predictable.
The other main human character is a little girl the apes reluctantly pick up on their journey. She’s a mute which means the apes can sort of talk to her with sign language. The girl does not really have a major part to play in the film other than being some sort of a focal point in cute interactions with the apes. In this reviewer’s opinion, she is more of a nuisance than actually serving the film’s plot.
“War” has comic relief in a little circus monkey who refers to himself as “Bad Ape”. He is vocalized by the always brilliant Steve Zahn and delivers much-needed lightness in a very serious movie. The film sort of falls apart in its final third and I was not very impressed with the way it resolves its plot points. Colonel McCullough’s reasons for hating the apes so much comes off a little bit odd.
All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes is a solid final chapter in Matt Reeves’ trilogy. Despite having a muddled plot (especially towards the end) the film shines with its driven characters, its deep emotional narrative and outstanding performances by Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson. It will be very interesting to see if this is really the end of the apes or if Reeves is allowed to expand their world even further. Given the film’s box office performance that seems very likely.