Film Review: "War for the Planet of the Apes"

Promotional poster for "War for the Planet of the Apes" from 

Promotional poster for "War for the Planet of the Apes" from 

“Star Wars,” “Toy Story,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “The Dark Knight” are just some of the greatest trilogies in the history of cinema. They all encompass an overall story/theme while also containing individual films that can stand on their own and still be wonderful. However, as of this weekend, “Planet of the Apes” should now be in the conversation, for “War for the Planet of the Apes” is both one of the best films of the year and one of the best conclusions in a trilogy I have ever seen.

After the events of 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” tension between apes and humans have passed the breaking point and all-out war has broken out. Caesar (Andy Serkis) simply wants to protect his brethren and family while the humans want to eradicate all apes. Caesar goes through triumph and defeat while contemplating as to how to end the war and at what cost he’s willing to end it.

Before reviewing the film, I should probably set some proper expectations for the film: don’t go into it expecting a lot of action sequences and blockbuster spectacle. It’s really more of a slow burn that builds up to a climactic finale. That didn’t hinder the movie for me whatsoever, but I just wanted to make sure you don’t have unrealistic expectations.

What this franchise continues to do is push the boundaries of visual effects, because the second film greatly improved the visuals from the firstt film, but this third chapter of the series by far has not just the best visuals in the trilogy, but some of the best effects I have ever seen in a long time. At one point, I forgot that they were actors in motion-capture suits and believed they were simply chimps trained by handlers to do stuff in the movie.

And at this point, the Academy should learn to accept motion-capture performances as actual performances, because while it’s unlikely he’ll get nominated, Andy Serkis should get nominated for his performance as Caesar, displaying both the veteran ape who’s clearly gone through so much in the previous films and will do anything to protect apes and the kind and inspiring leader who brings hope to his species. Serkis’ performance along with how the character has evolved throughout all three films makes Caesar one of the best characters I’ve seen from this decade and maybe from this century as well.

As for the other big-name actor in the film, Woody Harrelson gives a chilling performance as the villainous Colonel, displaying a haunting presence whenever he’s on-screen as he leads humanity against the apes. However, his character does get hindered towards the end after he gives nothing but exposition for a while. But he, for the most part, does a great job in the film as the villain.

But what sticks out in the film is that director Matt Reeves does an outstanding job displaying that, even though the main characters are apes, it’s a very human story. Reeves gives the ape characters very human qualities, including loyalty, love, bravery, and hope. In fact, we as an audience end up supporting the apes rather than our own species, which is very interesting. But he also presents the audience with the horrors of warfare and the kinds of choices a leader, both human and ape, must make in order to protect their kind and ensure their survival. However, while “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” perfectly balanced the lives of the humans and the apes and showed how alike they are, “War for the Planet of the Apes” made the humans out to be much more cynical and villainous, disrupting that balance quite a bit. Essentially, the only flaws with the film are prevalent on the human side of the war.

Also worth mentioning is the score, which adds so much emotion to every scene in the film. Going from energetic to soothing to hopeful to depressing and back again, the score is one of the few scores this year that does an incredible job setting the tone and the emotion behind every moment in the film.

Overall, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is one of the best film of the summer and an outstandingly emotional finale to a fantastic trilogy. The character arc of Caesar throughout all three films makes him one of the most complex, compelling characters I have seen in a long time. Couple that with an emotionally resonant story, engaging action sequences, and spectacular visual effects, and you get a gripping tale about war, family, and survival that will surely help get the “Planet of the Apes” Reboot trilogy into the conversation as one of the greatest film trilogies ever.