War for the Planet of the Apes

Brandon Richardson | 29/07/2017

With serious but subtle reflections on morality and the nature of humanity expertly mixed in with enticing battle scenes, War for the Planet of the Apes more than lives up to it’s well-received predecessor.

The third and final instalment in the revitalised Planet of the Apes trilogy takes place fifteen years after the events of the first film (Rise) lead to the release of a deadly virus that wiped out virtually all of humanity and left apes with enhanced intelligence. The apes have continued to build a home for themselves within the woods under the leadership of Caesar (Andy Serkis), but also seek refuge from the persecution of humans. Following a brutal attack from the rogue military faction known as Alpha-Omega, lead by a nefarious leader known only as the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Caesar is torn between ushering his clan to safety in new lands and exacting revenge for the atrocities committed by the Colonel. Ultimately, Caesar, along with trusted compatriots Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), are plunged into a desperate, final fight between apes and humanity.

 

Perhaps the first thing one might realise after watching this film is the distinct lack of actual “war” that the title may suggest. Sure, there are well choreographed and visually pleasing battles to be found towards the beginning and end of the film, but both of them pale in comparison to the action we were treated to at the end of the previous film (who could forget that stunning long-take from gunner seat of the tank?). Rather, instead of physical warfare, the real strengths of this film lie in the personal war raging within Caesar. He struggles with balancing his obligations to his fellow apes, both in leading them to safety and acting as the cornerstone of the morals he knows are needed for the species of ape to thrive, with the intense desire for personal revenge. Andy Serkis is, once again, magnificent in conveying this turmoil through his expert motion capture skills, delivering another stunning performance worthy of an Oscar nomination (which he will undoubtedly not receive).

Watching this franchise evolve over the years has been a joy. We have witnessed the growth of Caesar as a character alongside the CGI and motion-capture technology that makes him possible. It’s also astounding how each film has managed to have a completely self-contained story that is entertaining on its own, and each installation has had an entirely new and fresh feel to it. All films have tactfully and, to an extent, realistically dealt with the demise of a less dominant, competing species, such that the events unfolding are not unfathomable to the audience. War further develops this by poignantly reflecting on what it is to be human, and whether the qualities that humanity has claimed as their own really distinguish us from the other beings on this planet. As the films progressed, we have watched as humanity slowly transitions from the protagonist to the antagonist, and we start to understand more and more about how the world we were introduced to way back in 1968 came to be. To add the icing to the cake, an excellent score by Michael Giacchino is reminiscent of soundtracks of the time, and smooths over that transition from these prequels to the original story.

Conclusion

Matt Reeves has done what most before him have failed to do: produce an excellent ending to a trilogy. War for the Planet of the Apes gives this enthralling series of films the send off they truly deserve.