Hi everyone, Bryan here….
I believe we all thought that Tim Burton killed the Planet of the Apes franchise back in 2001 with his horrible version of man vs. ape. Luckily in 2011, the studio breathed new life into the franchise with Rupert Wyatt’s early telling of what is to become with Planet of the Apes with astonishing visual effects, acting, and one hell of a story. That film – Rise of the Planet of the Apes showed that one ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis) was to become the first highly intelligent and humanized ape, but it came at a great cost with a virus that wiped out most of Earth’s population. In the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that was taken over by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), Caesar and his ape friend are battling for their lives against the humans that have survived the virus outbreak. Now we have arrived at the conclusion of this epic trilogy – War For The Planet of the Apes, with Reeves in the director’s chair again as we see an aging and grayish haired Caesar tending to his family and still battling the demons of his former human-hating friend Koba, whom was killed in the previous film.
This third movie is humanity’s last chance to be the dominant species as only a few humans are left, whom mostly make up two different armies, being the North and the South. Caesar is not looking to take his Greek name to heart this time around, but rather lead his people like a certain biblical persona into a new, wonderful, rich land, far far away from humans. The southern army, however does not want to co-exist peacefully with the apes, and after a brutal encounter, Caesar is forced to go to one last finally battle with the humans for their right to live. What follows is a cross between Roots and Schindler’s List, where a ton of apes have been captured and put into concentration camps, and forced to build a giant wall for the humans without water or food to keep out other human enemies. This army base is led by a maniacal man known as the Colonel (perfectly played by Woody Harrelson), who has his reasons to act and talk the way he does.
Some might be sympathetic towards him too, after all his species is about to die out for good, but he’s not above killing innocent humans or apes, or even tying them up on a tree and whipping them with a leather whip, which evokes similarities to Kunta from Roots. These scenes throughout the film give War For The Planet of the Apes a very realistic and historical symbolism from our past and unfortunately our present, all of it being perfectly captured on camera. It’s up to Caesar and his few ape friends – Rocket, Maurice the Orangutan, a new ape friend they meet called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who is more of the comic relief that is delivered in the best of ways, to save the day and their loved ones. I’ll be honest with you, this is not a happy movie, folks.
There is a ton of dread, tragedy, and series of downer moments, but it’s all necessary for the final payoff here. It’s a beautiful 2.5 hour film that touches on every character, whether it be human or ape. Harrelson for sure turns in a fantastic performance that humanizes his bad deeds and actions, giving us a multi-layered villain here. But the spotlight is for sure on Andy Serkis, who so deserves and Oscar nomination for his role as Caesar.
Serkis’ voice for Caesar is weathered and seems to have been war-torn in a deep growl. It’s very satisfying and realistic. Caesar’s movements and facial expressions are all of Serkis’ too as this was motion captured in every way possible, which transfers to film flawlessly. I just hope the award shows recognize this later on in the year, because it might be the best performance I’ve seen in the along time. I have no doubt that there will be more Ape movies in the future, since they make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, but this third film in this planned trilogy of sorts, really ties everything together, making War for the Planet of the Apes one of the best films of the summer.