MOVIE REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes

In Coming Soon, Movies, Reviews by David GrimesLeave a Comment

War for the Planet of the Apes is the highly anticipated and potential final entry to the Apes franchise. I’d like to go back in time a bit and review how we got here.

In 2011, if you had asked me my thoughts on a reboot of the sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes, I would laughed at you. It was based on a dated (classic doesn’t mean it still can’t be dated) film series, and the less said about Tim Burton’s remake, the better.

Director Rupert Wyatt kicked things off with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Instead of telling the same story of the beloved original, he opted to go (presumably) decades prior the original and tell the story of how these apes came to be. We all know that prequels are a gamble and most aren’t very good, Rise was a surprising success. It was so good that we got a sequel three years later.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was highly anticipated by me in the summer of  2014, and it did what very few sequels can do – be better than the first. Director Matt Reeves had the near impossible task of making a sequel live up to it’s predecessor, and he succeeded.

Here we are three years later, after two massive successes, could the next Planet of the Apes film do almost the impossible? Could Matt Reeves create a great and satisfying conclusion to a trilogy?

Yes, yes he can. War for the Planet of the Apes succeeds on every single level that a trilogy needs to. It ups the stakes, it furthers the characters and brings everything full circle. From the opening scene with a military force tracking and attacking an Apes stronghold, to the deep and personal story of Caesar (Andy Serkis), to the climatic finale, War not only ends a great trilogy, I will put it up against some of the best trilogies of all time.

War does something very interesting, which makes the films title a bit of a misnomer. The film is a war story, the war of man vs ape, but it’s also a revenge story. That story is so gut wrenching and somber and so beautifully told, that really, only someone like Andy Serkis could pull this off. Again people will be campaigning for an Oscar nomination for him, and he should receive one. WIth every line of dialogue and look from the eyes of an Ape who just seems so tired and beaten down after he has lost so much, it just oozes with sadness that you can’t help but get choked up by it. Serkis is truly a master of his craft.

This is a sad tale. It is. That does not mean there isn’t any fun to it though. We are introduced to a new ape similar to Caesar, named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who provide the movie with much needed levity. Honestly, while Dawn is incredible, it’s such a serious film, and if War continued like that, it could of felt like torture watching Caesar’s journey unfold.

Woody Harrelson comes in this time as the big bad for Caesar. Playing the Colonel to the humans, his interactions with Caesar are palpitating with tension that is going to break any second. Watching these juggernauts trade shot for should with nothing but their words is like a heavyweight fight. Tyson vs Holyfield. Only Harrelson could match Serkis in this role, and he does it perfectly.

Everything about War is so maliciously crafted to give the viewer a real sense of the emotional journey that Caesar is on, that I can’t write this review and not talk about Michael Giacchino’s score. Setting the perfect tone for the film, his music evokes such power with its subtlety. It was almost John Williams-esq several times (probably a big influence, especially after working on Jurassic World and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that I was smiling when you would hear the music get lighter as the characters continued to bond on their journey.

I should really stop as this is probably the longest review I’ve done, and I don’t want to spoil anything. I know I’ve gushed over this film (and it’s predecessors) but after such a week summer movie season last year, you really have appreciate films that take the time to not make a fun summer blockbuster, but tell a relatable and beautiful story, where some franchises continue to chug out the same movie ever two or three years *cough giant noisy fighting robots cough*.

There is so little wrong with this movie that I won’t bother discussing any negatives as it would be pointless. I’m not ready to call War for the Planet of the Apes a masterpiece until I’ve seen it a second time, but it’s very possible I could after opening weekend. Hopefully I’ll see you line and ready to take this journey with Caesar and the apes.