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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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“War for the Planet of the Apes” Review

By Rob Jefchak

“Planet of the Apes” has stood as a towering staple of sci-fi cinematic excellence for many years now, so much so that every attempt to reboot or remake it has failed miserably in the daunting shadow of the first film’s stellar success. However in 2011, an unexpected gem came out in the form of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” It was a prequel to the original film but also a sort of reboot that told the very beginning of the apes rise to power that has expanded exponentially in each new sequel, each one increasing in popularity, quality and masterful storytelling. Now the apes rise to glory is (supposedly) being finished in this phenomenal trilogy as we learn the final fate of humanity’s last battle against the rising power of the apes.

Picking up 2 years after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) has been desperately trying to avoid a bloody war between apes and humans, started by a rogue ape that is now dead. The ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) slaughters Caesar’s apes and forces him into a final confrontation that will decide the fate of both species, leaving whoever wins control of the planet as everything comes to an end. People often butcher a series 3rd entry, which isn’t shocking since most trilogies bomb the third film no matter what genre or director is tackling it. The “Apes” prequel series has never stepped in monkey crap once however, each film is superbly crafted with mind blowing, award winning motion capture work that takes CGI to a whole new level and “War” is no exception to that flawless finesse.

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis has perfectly crafted Caesar into a compelling and emotionally enthralling character, bringing his personality and his role in this story full circle. It’s a conclusion that satisfies and moves the viewer even more than the previous two entries and to do that is quite an accomplishment. The themes focus heavily on the horrors of war, showing how dark, bleak and desperate this hostile environment pushes these characters to do terrible, but not entirely unexpected things to each other. The heavy influence from the character “Koba” from the previous film plays a big part here and I love that the continuity brought over holds such weight in this film.

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Woody Harrelson

movie war planet apesAs with all of these “Apes” films, the primates are the stars, not the humans. Having said that though, one has to recognize and applaud the tremendous performance and power of Woody Harrelson’s merciless Colonel. Most of the movie, the Colonel remains hidden; only showing up or being heard when necessary. He feels more like a force than a physical enemy Caesar can conquer. When he finally does stay on for a lasting tour, Harrelson is a commanding force to be reckoned with. He brims with madness and ruthlessness. You understand what kind of man he is the very first time he walks onscreen and his villainous nature feels twisted as well as rational at times. We see and learn just enough of him to understand what he’s truly after and it helps keep the character from overstaying his welcome or overselling his performance.

War is Perfect

The most remarkable thing about the film’s storytelling process, is the way “War” manages to nearly perfectly set up the dystopian future that awaits humanity’s survivors, while at the same time closes out the final chapter on Caesar’s journey that began with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” It’s like the ending and the beginning of two great stories, merged in one epic, grim package that is told too beautifully and performed too excellently to miss out or ignore. The raw emotion being displayed through these motion capture ape performers is cinematic proof that motion cap actors should be recognized and appreciated as any other onscreen actor. The touching relationship through the orangutan Maurice and the vividly expressive Nova (Amiah Miller) is prime example of how far our special effects technology has taken us.

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Overall, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is one of those truly rare occasions where the third entry in a film can prove to be as successful and supreme as the first and second entries. Every film in this series is a solid winner and this is the greatest cherry topper we could have asked for to write the final chapter on Caesar’s struggle through humanity’s darkest hour. Serkis and Harrelson command every moment they’re on screen and the dark action and apocalyptic elements produce the most effective heart attack and gut punch to your senses. This is a perfect ending to a perfect series that must be seen, dare I say, bought on first viewing.

I give “War for the Planet of the Apes” 3 ½ stars out of 4.