| After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
I never expected to witness such a grim and dark film with the protagonist being a speaking ape. The visual effects are truly beyond words. Matt Reeves returns to direct this instalment and this is easily his most accomplished piece of work yet, beating the stellar work he did on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Whether it’s building tension, evoking emotion or delivering pulsating action, Reeves delivers plenty of memorable moments to go with some of the great moments in the series. Reeves’ film is accompanied by the outstanding visual effects that have grown better and better with each film, some breathtaking cinematography from Michael Seresin and Michael Giacchino’s score that brilliantly accentuates the interchange of emotions throughout.
Opening with an incredibly tense sequence that sees a group of soldiers closing in on an ape trench, War for the Planet of the Apes builds on the foundations laid by its two predecessors to deliver a film that never loses focus of its narrative, all while continuing to deliver spectacle in abundance. The strong narrative is a key feature of the series and War of the Planet of the Apes exceeded my expectations with the story it tells. The strained relationship between humans and apes is just the tip of the iceberg.
Andy Serkis keeps topping himself role after role, and this time it’s no different. He, among with others doing motion-capture work for the film (such as Steve Zahn in a genuinely funny turn as “Bad Ape”), do a great job selling us on their characters and the conflicts they find themselves in. I was shocked and almost startled at how realistic the apes felt. There was a real sense of pain and emotion that was seen mostly from their facial expressions. Serkis was able to bring a certain sense of humanity to the character, even more than in the other films. You are really able to feel his struggle between revenge and protecting the other apes from harm.
Also, Woody Harrelson turns in a surprisingly subdued performance as the film’s lead antagonist. And while I feared he was going to feel similar to the last film’s human adversary, his motives are creative enough to stand out and he ends up standing toe-to-toe with Serkis when he needs to. I did have a problem with Amiah Miller’s character Nova, who is a human orphan who Maurice adopts, and despite that she was great and shines with a strong emotional scene, she was kind of useless by the end, I wished her character was developed a little more than what we got.
Closing out a trilogy is never easy but the final moments of War for the Planet of the Apes is one of those times where there is nothing but silence from the audience out of sheer captivation and respect. It’s a stunningly triumphant final chapter. However, despite that, I feel like this is a really good stopping point for this series. It’s been one of the most well-rounded trilogies of this century, and if they continue, they might ruin that.
Trilogies like these, stories that are truly intelligent, challenging and introspective, are cause for celebration. Proof that reboots aren’t inherently exercises in greed, but that they can be brilliant. Retooled, reshaped and revitalized versions of stories with many pages yet to be glimpsed, many angles yet to be visited. There just needs to be a reason for the reboot, a purpose behind the idea. And with this trilogy, Reeves clearly had a deep, worthwhile agenda.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ gets a 9.0/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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