Action Adventure

'War for the Planet of the Apes' Film Review: Humanity may be nearly extinct, but the smart, effects-driven blockbuster isn't

June 26, 2017Ben MK

Like Bond girls, humans come and go in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, but, like diamonds, apes are forever. That may seem like an odd analogy to use, but it nonetheless succinctly captures the narrative focus of Rise, Dawn, and now War for the Planet of the Apes, a film series of increasing spectacle that has shunned the notion of traditional human heroes in favor of its simian protagonist, Caesar.

An everyday chimpanzee turned super-smart ape who finds himself championing to protect his species from persecution — and, ultimately, annihilation — Caesar (played to perfection by a motion-captured Andy Serkis) fought to free apes from captivity in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, before butting heads with rival ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) for the leadership of the ape clan in the 2014 sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Now, in War, Caesar faces off against his most fearsome adversary yet, one hellbent on wiping out his kind once and for all.

Set 15 years after the first film and 2 years after the second, the story picks up with Caesar as he and his brethren continue to do their best to avoid conflict with humans, entrenching themselves deep within the forests of California. Their efforts prove futile, however, as they're inevitably forced to defend their home from an attack by military forces led by a ruthless colonel named McCullough (Woody Harrelson). A heated battle ensues, and, by the end of it, Caesar has suffered an unimaginable loss that sets him down the dark and all-consuming path of revenge.

It's a journey that takes Caesar, his loyal friend, Maurice (Karin Konoval), and a small band of ape brothers to a former weapons facility on the California border, where they must confront not only the darkness that dwells within the depths of the human soul, but also their own. At the same time, though, the script by Mark Bomback and director Matt Reeves is not without humor and hope, personified here by a helpful "bad ape" (Steve Zahn) and an orphaned human girl (newcomer Amiah Miller) whom Caesar and company encounter along the way.

The result serves as a fitting followup to Dawn, expanding on its themes and further deepening the audience's relationship with its core characters, a fascinating assortment of primates who are brought to life through stunning, state-of-the-art visual effects that blur the line between what's real and what's computer-generated like never before. On a similar note, the movie also greatly expands the scope of the series' mythology, while also awing viewers with a rousing and action-packed climax that proves to be the most explosive of the trilogy.

Of course, all of the film's eye-popping spectacle and ear-ringing bombast would ring hollow if not for Serkis, who imbues Caesar with substantial gravitas and heart that shine not just in the movie's quieter, character-driven moments, but all throughout. He, along with actors like Judy Greer and Terry Notary (who play his wife, Cornelia, and son, Rocket), are some of this sequel's unsung heroes. You never see their faces on-screen, yet without them, War for the Planet of the Apes would be just another contrived example of Hollywood monkey business.

War for the Planet of the Apes releases July 14th, 2017 from 20th Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 19 Mins.

You May Also Like