Action Adventure

'War for the Planet of the Apes' Blu-ray Review: The simians strike back and the film franchise comes full circle

October 24, 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 visual spectacle that has shunned the notion of traditional human heroes in favor of its simian protagonist, Caesar.

Set 15 years after the first film and 2 years after the second, the story picks up with Caesar (played to perfection by a motion-captured Andy Serkis) as he continues to do his best to avoid conflict with humans, entrenching himself and his brethren deep within the forests of California. Their efforts prove futile, however, as they're inevitably forced to fend off a military attack 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 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.

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 debuts on Blu-ray with results that are nothing short of breathtaking. Picture quality is outstanding, bolstered by deep colors and exhibiting a remarkable level of detail in everything from the CG fur and skin of Caesar and his simian companions, to the scenic beauty of some of the real-life Vancouver locales where the film was shot. Meanwhile, the default DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix aids the film immensely, and while there is a fairly lengthy lull in the action during the movie's middle stretch, the total aural immersion in gunfire, ape war cries and explosions afforded by the two main battle sequences is worth fawning over.

Fox's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes/Movies Anywhere/Google Play/Vudu digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Deleted Scenes (23:03) - Ten scenes, with optional audio commentary by director/co-writer Matt Reeves ("Graveyard," "Turncoats," "Barrier Wall," "I Owe You One," "A Great Man," "Do Not Lose Hope," "Snowfall," "The Colonel's Speech," "Malcolm and the Dinosaurs" and "I am Like Koba").
  • Waging War for the Planet of the Apes (29:38) - A look at the ideas, concepts and inspirations behind the movie, the characters and the actors who portray them, the work that went into creating realistic ape performances, the filming of the various battle scenes, and the production design, cinematography and set design.
  • All About Caesar (12:40) - A look at Andy Serkis' portrayal of Caesar, what drew him to the role, and how his character has evolved over the course of the three Apes films.
  • Weta: Pushing Boundaries (10:36) - Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri and the visual effects team discuss the advances in technology, as well as the challenges, as they pertain to giving Caesar a more aged look, the character design of Bad Ape, the realistic depictions of snow on fur, and the balance between practical and digital elements.
  • Music for Apes (6:20) - A behind-the-scenes look at the last day of scoring on the Newman Scoring Stage with Matt Reeves and composer Michael Giacchino.
  • Apes: The Meaning of It All (20:15) - The cast, the crew and film historians discuss their love of the original Planet of the Apes franchise, its themes and its status as a groundbreaking piece of sci-fi filmmaking, as well as how the the new Apes films have not only carried on the spirit of the original franchise but also taken it in a new direction.
  • The Apes Saga: An Homage (7:48) - A look at the various ways in which the new Apes films pay homage to the original franchise, from the dialogue, to the characters, their names and their relationships.
  • Audio Commentary by Matt Reeves - An informative track in which Reeves talks about the narrative perspective of the movie, the other films that inspired it, the cinematography, the actors' performances and the advancements in performance capture technology, the set design, the visual effects, shooting in Vancouver, the music score and more.
  • Concept Art Gallery - 8 images of "Characters," 7 images of "Drawings" and 83 images of "Paintings."
  • Theatrical Trailers (6:54) - Three trailers ("Teaser Trailer," "Official Trailer" and "Final Trailer").

War for the Planet of the Apes is available from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment as of October 24th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 hrs. 20 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on June 26th, 2017.

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