CINEMA RELEASE: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Classification: M (Mature Themes and Violence)
Review by Peter Gray
A film series that has only improved with each subsequent entry, the newly realised ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise comes to a fitting close in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’. Wisely building on the ingredient that made the previous two films – 2011’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ and 2014’s ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ – so successful, namely Andy Serkis’s incarnation of advanced ape Caesar, this threequel completes his arc in a manner that effortlessly lays the groundwork for the original 1968 film.
Foregoing any significant human players apart from Woody Harrelson’s rather prototype-like colonel, director Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) and co-writer Mark Bomback (‘The Wolverine’) have made this a suitably ape-centric feature, wisely allowing Caesar (as motion-captured by Serkis) to serve as the film’s main attraction. Both the flawlessly executed generated effects and the performance skill from Serkis transform Caesar into, ironically, the most human character of the film, and it’s not hard to fathom the argument for recognising non-traditional acting performances come award season being addressed off the undeniably committed work from the actor.
Registering more as a drama than an all-out action film (though the film does eventually escalate to larger set pieces in its heavy finale), ‘War…’ invests its time in following Caesar’s journey from fearless leader of the apes to a degraded prisoner under the regime of Harrelson’s colonel. The story itself is rather stock-standard but the manner in which it has been approached never falters the film, and the remnants of the Simian Flu – the virus that wiped out the majority of the human race and assisted in the apes’ advanced intelligence – serves as a plot additive that, amongst other revelations, plays into the unlikely realisation that Caesar can relate to the colonel on a personal level.
As intense as the film prove to be though, there are welcome moments of levity peppered throughout courtesy of Steve Zahn’s “Bad Ape” whose name welcomes the irony it presents. Alongside the flawless rendering of Serkis as Caesar, Zahn’s embodiment of this endearing ape is further confirmation of how advanced technology has become. A sobering, ultimately bittersweet film, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is likely to hit audiences harder than expected on an emotional level whilst proving itself an enviable blueprint example of how major features on this scale should be made.
My rating: 4/5