I’m still unsure on what ground these new Planet of the Apes movies have any right to being nearly as good as they are. The first reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasant surprise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had put good use to what had already been set in motion by its predecessor to create a broader canvas within its narrative, and now with War for the Planet of the Apes, it may very well be all coming to an end. With director Matt Reeves returning behind the camera, it was only fitting to expect more exciting results would come by and my expectations were met perfectly. Knowing that one story was already about to come and meet its own end, what Matt Reeves has formed in War for the Planet of the Apes was only the most fitting conclusion that this new Planet of the Apes franchise has received – enough for me even to say they might as well be a better series than the original films at that.
The human population has already declined rapidly as well as that of the apes, as the Simian Flu virus has evolved to a greater degree. Caesar and his own apes have already suffered great losses as the result of an impending war that has started between humans and apes as a result of events from the previous film, and now Caesar is finding himself battling his own darker instincts in order to protect his own kind. For after his own kind has suffered enough at the hands of a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Caesar already fears he is turning into Koba, who has since continued to haunt him. It was only a matter of time these movies have already gone as far as create defining changes to their own characters and what they have become as a result of the world around them, and after what Matt Reeves has already made of the possibilities the series could go from Rise of the Planet of the Apes with Dawn, he doesn’t disappoint with War for the Planet of the Apes.
As per usual with this new series, the question still rings about what will be made of humans and their relationships with the apes and a predictable answer does come forth once again. That’s not to say it destroys the wonders that are set to come forth, but it’s in Caesar’s vulnerability where War for the Planet of the Apes continues to build upon his character arc. Now that he must fight a war against a ruthless colonel in order to protect his own kind, he transforms into a wholly different character, thus Caesar finds he is at a war with his own self. Does he want to turn himself into Koba and seek vengeance upon the human race for what they have done to him, or will he try to make peace even with extremists in a world that only resorts to such for their own protection? Behind the excellent visual effects work we have this grasp of vulnerability in Andy Serkis’s performance and what can already be said about what he does behind such work will already have been said many times in other ways – I don’t have much else to add there.
Woody Harrelson comes in to play the Colonel and continuing on from what allowed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to feel so refreshing compared to its own predecessor was within how rounded their human characters are as a result of the actions they perform throughout the course of the film. Harrelson makes for an intimidating presence as the Colonel, but not without reservations to his role and how it was written. For where the film finds its greatest weaknesses comes from how the dialogue for its own human characters is written, it only feels expository at most (something which also bogged down Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was also directed with Reeves behind the camera). It seems that the case with War for the Planet of the Apes is present that they might have already found themselves going back one step by having its human characters service as exposition devices rather than create a compelling arc, although notable exceptions are to be found within.
The greatest strength, however, to having Matt Reeves come back behind the camera for War for the Planet of the Apes was present within how it seems that their canvases are far more broad and thus Reeves is free to experiment more with what he has in his hands. For new twists to the story are always welcomed and new characters can be entertaining in certain measure (i.e. Steve Zahn coming in as Bad Ape), although they still cost the film within certain areas. The pacing in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has not always been the strongest aspect and War finds itself almost stinted within its final moments, going longer than they possibly should, but Reeves’s ability to form suspension of disbelief to go within the moment is what allows War for the Planet of the Apes to shine at its brightest, for he has also created some of the most emotional moments within the series but once again, more reservations come by.
As a concluding chapter to this story, War for the Planet of the Apes does what any concluding chapter would do best – and it’s the confidence within such a work that allows for something incredibly admirable to be seen in here. These films aren’t wholly original but because of how humanized they feel, they’re still compelling enough as a theatrical experience. Every character’s motivation is one you can understand within perspective, just as an intelligent blockbuster would be able to present itself. And in Reeves’s direction it’s only fitting that the series has only gotten darker in tone in order to create these defining moments for its own characters, presenting a fine character study along with a well-established political allegory. I’ve never been the hugest fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise, but it always feels like a nice surprise coming out of every entry in this new series.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Matt Reeves
Screenplay by Matt Reeves, Mark Bomback, from characters by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 140 minutes