Dan M., here….
War For the Planet of the Apes is the best movie I have seen this summer. It is astonishingly well done. Every aspect of this movie *at a minimum* worked. Some of the basic moments and scenes would be considered high points for lesser franchises. There is a ton to spoil in this film but I will not be doing that in this review. Hopefully in a few weeks once people have seen the movie we can discuss the moments that made this movie so damn good in greater detail.
First of all the marketing of this movie has been extremely well done. Every trailer and poster teases the conflict between an army of apes and men which everyone wants to see. That conflict and those fights occur but this is a much quieter movie than I expected. It is far more character driven and reflective than I ever imagined. Caesar, played by the amazing Andy Serkis, has been fighting off attacks by humans for years. Never venturing to attack, only fighting to defend his home from them. Colonel (Woody Harrelson) commands a large group of soldiers from the nearby mountains and has been hunting Cesar and the ape’s home for a long time. This conflict reaches a point that requires Caesar to travel with the intention to find the Colonel to end this conflict once and for all.
On that journey, Caesar is accompanied by Rocket and Maurice, the former being a loyal enforcer and the latter maintaining his place as the philosophical moral compass of the group. Along the way they meet ‘Bad Ape’ who is played by Steve Zahn and absolutely steals the movie by being a delight every instant he is on screen. They also find a young girl named Nova who really brings forward a lot of the emotional and character growth moments.
The CGI is still top notch. The fact that CGI apes can elicit such strong emotional reactions from a packed audience is incredible. The fact that they can also have the character journey to affect you as you leave the theater is even more impressive. There isn’t a ton of dialogue, most of the apes still use sign language and so until we meet the humans there isn’t a ton of talking. Despite this, I knew what every character wanted, why they wanted it, and what they were willing to do to get it. The actors that bring these CGI apes to life really don’t get enough credit for putting on legitimate performances that stay with you way longer than most typical actors in other movies.
Matt Reeves has written and directed a truly great movie. An ‘Oscar bait’ film as far as narrative and theme, packaged with CGI apes and a bald Woody Harrelson so that the general public can swallow it. It is important that movies like this exist because it shows how magnificent blockbusters or tent poles can be. You can make a good movie in XYZ universe, you just need the right guy for the job. Reeves nailed it with this one and I am very excited for The Batman now.
This movie is called War For the Planet of the Apes, but it is much more than that. It is also a revenge tale, a story about one’s legacy and place in the World, a look at leadership, a prison caper, a comedy, and a commentary on how dangerous those with power will behave when afraid. I came in to the movie expecting the ‘war’ part and left astounded by how much more this film truly was. I can’t say enough nice things about every part of this movie and I hope everyone sees it so we can chat spoilers soon.