Uploaded to MoviePilot on 28th July
This is in a style I attempted for MoviePilot briefly when I thought I could put reviews on there… they weren’t a review place, this was me being dumb. Also, this style isn’t one I like, but I’m keeping this for reference purposes. Oh, and yes this is why I didn’t review War For The Planet Of The Apes before now.
The modern-day Planet Of The Apes franchise has garnered a rather impressive reaction, especially when compared to the Tim Burton attempt at the franchise. Both Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes got really high praise, something that many found stunning considering that a lot of us still were getting over that 2001 version. So, here we are, the third movie in the series and it has a lot to live up to.
How did it handle the high bar that the two previous films set? Let’s figure that out.
War for the Planet of the Apes follows Caesar, who just wants to try and live in peace. Tired of the fighting with the humans who once again invaded his home he sends the survivors of the latest battle back to base. His hope was that doing so would be a form of peace offering, possibly ending the battle so he and the other apes could live free. Of course, that’s no fun and so in the dead of night, the Colonel that sent an army after Caesar comes to put an end to the ape. When he fails at his task, Caesar vows revenge and goes to find the camp where the humans are to end the battle once and for all.
It’s a very gripping plot with a ton of emotional depth for all our main characters. We have to see major characters go through loss and feel the need for vengeance. Revenge itself is a major element of the plot, as everyone is trying to get some form of payback. Whether it be Caesar trying to get revenge on the Colonel for what he did to the apes, or the Colonel trying to get revenge on apes for what he believes they did. It’s a great plot where everything flows naturally from one scene to another. There are also a lot of moments where Caesar may as well be called Jesus, because the metaphor is fairly strong at a few key moments.
It normally takes a very special film to be able to pull off a motion capture character like Caesar, and this might be the best they’ve ever made that character look. It feels so real, every motion of the apes and every hair on their bodies feels like it’s really there and really creating this amazing story. The effects work is spectacular with some absolutely gorgeous shots that sell the emotional moments when needed.
SO MANY MONKEYS!
The only problem that I have with the visuals is that some monkeys appear to have repeated models or are at least similar enough that it’s easy to confuse them. I know this because there is a relatively major character death that I didn’t even notice for 15 minutes because there was a second monkey that looked almost identical to the one who died, so I was completely lost. Luckily this isn’t a problem for the main monkeys we follow because they are so specifically designed, but there’s one exception to that and it’s a big deal.
This script might be one of the tightest I’ve seen this year. The dialogue is crisp and on point, character motivations are slipped in effortlessly, as needed. There is a villain monologue that’s so well written, and delivered by Woody Harrelson, that I’m fine with it even though normally I find villain monologues to be the cheesiest thing ever. I also really like how they mirror certain ideas or images that pop up in the first half of the film, those ideas and images get flipped about and repeated in the second half to bookend certain plot elements. It’s a very nice touch that is going to reward repeat viewings to look for more of them.
It’s also a really good third act for the overarching story of this series, one that doesn’t require you to see the first two movies in order to understand it. It fills everyone in on the key elements that they need to know right from the start so you can just slide right in fresh. It is very hard for a sequel to pull that off without seeming to pander to new viewers but this one welcomes newbies in very easily.
Someone, hurry the hell up and give Andy Serkis an Oscar already. At least give him a nomination because he is pulling off a masterpiece with Caesar. Every little bit of what Andy puts into the character is astounding. The little looks, the way his lip moves, his vocal inflection, everything about it is transcendent. He brings so much to the character and makes it look so realistic. It’s a grand performance, one that he deserves unending praise for.
Huge props also to Woody Harrelson as The Colonel, providing the film with a worthy antagonist who is intimidating from the first second we see him. He has to create a villain that we want to see Caesar beat and give us a character who we can understand. Evil as the Colonel is, I absolutely understand why he does what he does, which is a testament to just how good Harrelson is in the role.
There are a few moments in this film that I need to comment on that I can’t put into the other categories, so I’m putting them here.
- The character of Bad Ape is adorable and hilarious but there are sometimes when his comedic relief comes at the expense of a genuinely intense dramatic moment.
- The mute girl is a fun little character to add to the film that I wish we’d gotten a bit more time with. She is absolutely important to the movie, but we never really get to know much about her backstory or what her purpose is other than to basically be a human monkey.
- I appreciate the lack of modern music on the soundtrack. I can imagine how easy it would’ve been to throw War by Edwin Star in there at some point but they just kept it to simple background music. I appreciate the restraint.
A film with very few negatives and a whole truckload of positives. A great addition to the Planet of the Apes series that lives up to the standard the two previous films set and, in many ways, surpasses them. Visually beautiful, thrilling and emotionally heartbreaking. It’s the kind of film that deserves the term ‘blockbuster’ because it’s such a great ride that is easily one of the better films to come out this year