Director Matt Reeves has returned for the third chapter of this arc of the apes. The latest franchise reboot kicked off with Rupert Wyatt in the director’s chair for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) which did very well in the critics’ eyes as well as in the box office. I’m sure that no one was more pleased than 20th Century Fox, who holds the rights to this valuable franchise. After the previous reboot attempt crashed and burned back in 2001, this was a big step in a positive direction. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) saw a change in directors but it did not affect the quality of the sequel in the slightest. Here we are in 2017 and many are curious to see just what we’re in for with War for the Planet of the Apes finally breaking cover and being released into the wild.
The latest leg of the ape anthology brings viewers to a time when the balance has finally fully shifted from man to ape. Earth truly has become a planet of the apes. Mankind now has to fight for its freedom and independence by any means necessary, including guerrilla warfare. See what I did there? The apes have evolved to become the most dominate and feared creature to roam the planet. Caesar (Andy Serkis) still has a major part in leading the apes but war against humans isn’t his primary purpose. Koba (Toby Kebbell) ruled with a heavy hand and was always looking to fight. Caesar simply wants to be left alone and hopes that his primate mates can find a way to coexist with the humans. This thought is but a dream thanks to the aggressive, and deadly, tactics that “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson) chooses to employ. He is relentless, merciless and undaunted in his mission to set things right by putting humans back in their rightful place as rulers over everything. Lines are crossed, sacrifices are made and revelations are had as this war escalates to biblical proportions. Who will remain standing at the end of the day, and at what cost?
War for the Planet of the Apes feels like a heavy epic saga that will undoubtedly tug at some emotional strings. This truly feels like a civil war that is being waged by two sides of the same coin. With that being said, as an audience member, you might have a harder time choosing sides that first thought. Emotional connection will either make or break audiences opinions of this movie. If you get sucked into the meanings and thinly veiled symbolism throughout, consider yourselves emotionally invested and you’ll most likely be on the edge of your seats throughout. If you’re just hear for the action and effects, you might be slightly disappointed. I say slightly because if you’re not into the story being slowly built upon, your patience will be worn paper thin. The special effects are simply amazing and you will forget that these aren’t actually apes running amok on screen rather than some shrewd technology on display. At 140 minutes, it’s the longest “Apes” movie to date so it’s pretty safe to say that there could be a little of something for everyone.
On the human side of things, two actors really stand out. The first being Woody Harrelson which should come as little surprise. I say that but he has made the occasional stinker of a performance, but not often. He totally sells the angle of a man on the edge with no regard for his enemy. He is cruel and unflinching, which he wears very well in War for the Planet of the Apes. Amiah Miller doesn’t have a lot of work under her belt but she will definitely get more offers thanks to work here. You’ll see. Aside from those two, it’s mostly an ape parade so you don’t get to associate the actors with their CGI counterparts. Of course Andy Serkis is the exception here as he’s literally made a living off of roles similar to these. Aside from maybe Jim Carrey 10 or 15 years ago, this man probably has the hardest working facial muscles in Hollywood!
Please be patient while watching War for the Planet of the Apes and be sure to lower your emotional defenses. If you do both of these things, your experience will be greatly enhanced. I don’t know what the future of franchise has in store but this is an extremely fulfilling last leg of a trilogy. You can swing by one of many theaters right now and see it for yourselves. Enjoy.