War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes

In Theatres: 
Jul 14, 2017
Running Time: 
142 minutes

Ever since 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the rebooted Apes franchise has been building up to the point we see in 1968’s original Planet of the Apes. It’s always been inevitable that the films reach the pivotal moment where apes have taken over the planet and humans have become hunted. For two films the tension has been building as Andy Serkis’ Caesar has risen to power and laying the groundwork of a rebellion. The dawn of a new society is at hand, but first the old one must be burned to the ground. War is coming, and we already know the outcome.


The war between man and ape has been waging for quite some time now due to the actions of Koba from Dawn. The effects of the Simian Flu have wiped out most of humanity, but there remains a steadfast group of soldiers led by a crazed Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who are determined to rid the planet of these apes once and for all before humans become the extinct species. Caesar simply wants to live in peace with his colony, but the actions of the Colonel push him over the edge. Now consumed by a thirst for revenge, Caesar will stop at nothing until the Colonel is dead.


Despite its name, War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t so much about the war itself but rather the effects of war on apes and humans. The film has all the markings of epic war films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Both sides have been through a lot, and at the heart of the conflict is simply the struggle for survival. They’ve seen the death all around them. But while Caesar is content with being left alone, the Colonel believes that the laws of nature will only allow for one species to flourish while the other must perish; survival of the fittest.


Woody Harrelson does a great job at channeling his inner Marlon Brando for the Colonel. While he’s the definite antagonist of the film, he does come off as sympathetic at times. He’s not just some crazed, power-hungry villain. Yes, he’s done some unforgivable acts to get him to the point where he is now, but like Caesar, he’s fighting for the survival of his species. He’s blinded by his goal, and nothing will get in his way of accomplishing it. As he believes, it’s either apes or humans. There is no middle ground.


Caesar, on the other hand, is much more conflicted. Andy Serkis has always done a phenomenal job at capturing the mannerisms and emotion for the ape leader, but his performance in War is truly something to behold. He is at his absolute best, and the technology is as well. The level of detail for the apes is stunning as they are able to capture every minute detail for facial animations. So much of the film relies upon the physical interactions and expressions between the apes and director Matt Reeves isn’t afraid of pulling the camera in close to capture every little movement in their faces.


Caesar’s speech is now nearly identical to that of a human, but he still communicates through sign language with his fellow apes, who all have their own various levels of speaking ability. Serkis once again does an amazing job at bringing Caesar alive, both in voice and motion capture. It’s a brilliant performance and will no doubt bring up the topic of Oscar consideration for him one again.


Bringing some humor to an otherwise dark film is the new addition “Bad Ape,” voiced by Steve Zahn. A chimpanzee who escaped from a zoo and has been living on his own since the Simian Flu outbreak, “Bad Ape” reluctantly joins Caesar in his assault on the Colonel’s base of operations. Unlike Caesar and the other apes, “Bad Ape” is not a fighter of any kind. He’s a good-hearted ape who just wants to help out; a role that fits Zahn perfectly.


Also introduced in War is Nova(Amiah Miller), a young human girl who cannot speak thanks to a new mutated strain off the Simian Flu. She is taken in by Maurice (Karin Konoval) and the other apes after she is orphaned because of the ongoing war. She’s the hope of the film, the bridge between man and ape, and even though she doesn’t speak the film does a great job at giving her a voice through actions.


War for the Planet of the Apes is how you end a trilogy. In an industry where the third film of franchises tend to crash and burn, it stands out as one of the best. Andy Serkis is without a doubt the greatest in the business when it comes to motion capture, and War is the perfect representation of that and will no doubt be the industry standard for years to come. In a summer of lackluster blockbusters, Caesar is king.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook