WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (USA/12A/140 mins)
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell.
THE PLOT: After militant ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) launched a fierce war between the apes and the surviving humans, leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) sits upon a troubled throne. His apes are looking to him for strength, hope and comfort. It will not be easy to achieve any of this, now that these two worlds are plunged into a bitter conflict. A new human adversary emerges in the form of the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson), who is intent on hunting down the apes and exterminating them once and for all. After an attack on the camp, Caesar sends his community to a safe refuge. He has his own mission, to confront the Colonel in his wintry fortress. He reluctantly accepts the support of Maurice (Karin Konoval), eccentric Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) and a young girl with a significant name (Amiah Miller)..
THE VERDICT: Almost a half century after it first appeared on cinema screens, the durable ‘Planet Of The Apes’ franchise found a new lease in life in 2011. Reboot ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ turned out to be one of that summer’s genuine surprises. ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ followed in 2014, adding more complexity and an evolving storyline. Now the story comes full circle with ‘War For The Planet Of The Apes’.
While most movie trilogies predictably drop in quality with each instalment, that’s not the case with this trilogy. If anything, each film here has got progressively better. Looking back, it can now be viewed as a clearly-defined three-act story following Caesar’s evolution from lab ape to conflicted leader, worryingly driven by the same hate that consumed Koba. However, Caesar retains his essential respect for life in any form. He just wants peace and for his community to be left alone, while scattered pockets of the human race struggles against a demise of their own making.
Returning from Dawn, director Matt Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback peel back the layers of this human / ape conflict, getting to the root of it with increasing moral complexity. There’s a well-defined contrast between Caesar, wrestling with his inner demons and The Colonel, who is an unpopular, hard-line figure even among the surviving humans. At its heart, this trilogy is about survival and co-existence, not about conflict. Conflict is just a by-product of this. Reeves scores highly in being able to keep a delicate balance and sympathy between the apes and the humans here.
More so than the previous two films, Andy Serkis’ performance breaks out of the performance capture suit and pushes at the pixels to become incredibly photo-real and convincing. With a grim look on his face and the weight of a potential new world on his shoulders, Caesar weighs every word, spoken or signed, slowly and carefully. Someone give Serkis an Oscar already or at the very least a nomination. The performances, in and out of the performance capture suit, are uniformly excellent too.
A particular mention should go to Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score. Rich and varied, it has touches of militaristic bombast, John Barry-style sweeping epicness and tender moments that gently underline the dramatic beats of the story. There’s no monkey business here. ‘War For The Planet Of The Apes’ is a very strong finish to this trilogy and undoubtedly a highlight of the summer blockbuster season.
RATING: 4 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor

  • Martin

    Even since the first of this trilogy in 2011 the CGI has come on leaps and bounds and given the filmmakers more scope to advance more just like the apes themselves are advancing. It’s like a few movies all rolled up into one but the outcome is something pretty special. It’s rare that you get three movies from the same franchise that are still strong and the third one also being the pick of the bunch. The cast are all on top form with woody harrelson doing a great job as the Gillian of the piece. The effects are truly brilliant and with Andy Serkis as Caesar it’s a joy to watch. I can not fault this movie one bit. Love every minute of it .

  • emerb

    Rebooted franchises have a notoriously bad reputation and are seen by many as merely a fast way for the filmmakers to get a quick buck. However, “Planet of the Apes” has succeeded where so many others have failed. It’s no mean feat to make a trilogy that just clicks from the start but returning director Matt Reeves delights us again with a smart, dazzling and worthy movie that grips you throughout. While it’s not absolutely essential to have watched the first two installments, I think it certainly would help for the early stages of the movie as it
    connects the storyline of the previous two instalments. We pick up a couple of years after 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” which ended with all-out war being declared between the ascendant apes and the declining remnants of the human race. Andy Serkis is back as reluctant rebel leader Caesar, now facing a threatened homeland and a new human challenge led by the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson). It’s a grim fight for survival as mankind has one mission – the extinction of Caesar and his army of apes.

    “War For The Planet Of The Apes” once again focusses on the fight-for-survival for the apes under their chief simian, Caesar. Since the events of the previous film, life hasn’t been easy for the apes and a brutal conflict is once again stirring. Their population is dwindling and they are trying to hide away deep in the forests
    from the humans who hunt them under orders from the merciless Colonel. Some apes have even joined the humans as they feel it’s only a matter of time before they’re defeated and enslaved. Finally the apes believe they have found a safe dwelling place but when a late-night raid by the Colonel kills Caesar’s wife and son, he is left reeling. Instead of leading his people to a promised land, Caesar sets out on a journey of revenge. Caesar and his small group of comrades ride on horseback across the grim, snowy Sierra mountains. They even pick up a few new members along the way, including a sweet mute little blond girl (Amiah Miller) whom they name “Nova” who’s rendered mute by some unspecified new plague and turns into an honorary member of their clan. They also meet up with a small,
    talking, wide-eyed chimp, “Bad Ape”, who escaped from a zoo and turns out to be both touching and funny – a real scene-stealer and a key figure in the eventual prison showdown. The Colonel runs a sort of military encampment where captured apes toil in chains day and night with no food or drink and is not afraid to kill at will. Yet Caesar is determined to seek out his enemy and release his fellow apes. Eventually captured himself, he must rely on the efforts of the few survivors to come up with an escape plan.
    There is no other way to say it but this concluding chapter goes out on a real high note, it’s the best installment in the franchise for sure, an exceptional film in so many ways. The story telling is rich and complex, the special effects and technological wizardry are incredibly clever, the bracing action is non-stop and exciting, the spectacular locations are stunning, the imaginative and unusual musical score is spot on and of course Andy Serkis’s incredible motion capture
    performance is outstanding. It’s fair to say that Andy Serkis has accomplished
    a lot over his career but surely Caesar is his greatest testament? While it’s not likely, I’d love to see him get an Oscar nod for his efforts because what he achieves here is magnificent and truly ground-breaking. The fact that the movie is mostly all apes, apart from a committed performance by Harrelson, isn’t to its detriment but it would have been nice to see some females of note. The only other human character is the adolescent Nova (Amiah Miller), who’s an intriguing character but is never fully developed. Bad Ape, the new character played by Steve Zahn, is the most noteworthy addition and provides much needed comic relief at the most unexpected times in the midst of what is such a dark and gloomy story. My favourite part of the movie was the turbulent showdown at the end where fire and ice rain down from the sky – I’d watch that sequence again and again. It was unreal and such a magnificent and fitting conclusion to such an
    epic trilogy. You’d be hard put to find a better movie this year, miss it on the big screen and you will regret it!