War for the Planet of the Apes – A Deeply Emotional Finale

So this is the end, or at least that’s what it seems. It will be sad to see it go but it’s nice to see it go on such a high note.

Synopsis: Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet. (20th Century Fox)

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, and Steve Zahn

Writers: Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves

Director: Matt Reeves

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 140mins

Trailer: 

The first film of the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was a nice surprise back in 2011. That film would be the start of what has been an epic trilogy culminating with this newest addition, War for the Planet of the Apes. While watching this new film, it feels like a culmination of everything that has happened up to this point. Caesar (Serkis) and his fellow apes simply want to live in their home in the forest in peace but once a sinister colonel (Harrelson) shows up and destroys their home, Caesar must face an inner battle between what is best and revenge.

It is pretty safe to say that the first Apes film was more about the humans than the apes and the second was a little more even so with that, this film focuses more on the apes and their plight. The apes themselves were all very compelling to watch as their arc was both emotional and epic. Because of the advances in motion capture technology, smaller moments were accentuated from the apes’ considerable range of emotions, picking up the subtle and not so subtle. This was most prevalent during non-dialogue scenes when the apes communicated with one another. The score also gave the film an epic feel and almost acted as another character.

It will surely be easy to forget that you are watching apes on screen as the story is a very human one and surprisingly deep, ironically enough. Caesar wants to protect his family of apes and also wanted revenge against the colonel. In doing so, he had to fight to preserve his own humanity (so to speak) and not try to become Koba. He may not be around anymore but his ideology remained, causing a rift within the ranks and leading some of the apes to defect to the humans and adding a new wrinkle to the ape and human dynamic. Not wanting him to face him alone, a few of his fellow apes joined him.

Caesar’s revenge took the apes on a journey through some beautiful locales including forests, mountains, and snow. On the way to find the colonel, the apes find a mute girl (Amiah Miller) who then joins them on their journey. Her developing relationship with the apes was fun to watch as she eventually became one of them (so to speak). Another great addition is an ape they find later on named Bad Ape (Zahn). In what was mostly a darker film, his presence added some much needed levity and he also managed to steal scenes with his many one liners.

Since the film focused so much on the apes, the moment where the apes caught up to the colonel and the other humans was slightly disappointing. Here the story added some context by throwing in a few more details and twists which ultimately didn’t work as well with the rest of the film and took away from the final act. Despite this, the sides were already clearly defined with the humans being evil and the apes being good. This made it easy to root for them throughout but even more so when they found themselves imprisoned later on.

There probably wasn’t as much action here compared to the previous two films but the focus on the emotional side more than made up for it. There was less action, however, the film still had some intense battle sequences. As mentioned, the cinematography was excellent and there were definitely some influences (intentional or not) from other films throughout such as The Revenant, Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption, and Silence just to name a few (or at least those were the ones I thought of).

The acting was amazing all around with Serkis being the standout. Sure, the technology was there but it was his performance that really brought Caesar to life again. Caesar was the driving force of the film and he carried that responsibility admirably. He delievered a deep and nuanced performance, allowing us to connect with him on an emotional level. It could be argued that Harrelson’s colonel is a one-dimensional character, however, his performance brought him to life in a way that it wouldn’t have worked if it were someone else. He was an engaging character who we did not get enough of although he had chemistry with Serkis, making their scenes some of the best parts of the film.

Overall, this was a beautiful and deeply emotional action film, serving as a fitting end to the rebooted Planet of the Apes trilogy. Despite stumbling a little at the end, the story was compelling to watch and was elevated by the amazing performances of Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson.

Score: 9/10

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