This is the third and presumably final part of the rebooted Planet of the Apes series. These films are intelligent, emotional and thrilling blockbusters. Compared to the other franchises, the Apes films are leagues ahead. A lot of hype surrounded this new film. The trailers looked great and Matt Reeves, director of the brilliant second film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, returned to direct. So, is this the best instalment in the series? I personally think Dawn is the superior film. However, War for the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic action film and finishes the story brilliantly.
I will talk about the negatives first. This film is quite long and after a while you start to feel it. Some films fly by and you have no concept of how long they are. Something like Minority Report, which is the same length as War, doesn’t feel as long as it is. I attribute this to the heavy themes and sequences in War. But while I felt like it was long, I was never bored.
Apart from that, this film is exceptional across the board. The sheer amount of tension that Matt Reeves creates from the opening shot is incredible. The sense of pressure I felt as an audience member was unrelenting. I haven’t felt that on edge in the cinema for a long time.
This film follows Caesar (Andy Serkis), who clashes with the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), the leader of one of the last groups of the human resistance. As Caesar and his loyal followers Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) go on a revenge mission, they join up with Nova (Amiah Miller), who is a human girl, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), a lone survivor.
The effects work in this film is phenomenal. The level of detail and precision in all the ape characters is unparalleled. You can see all the grey hairs in Caesar’s beard and every snowflake which lands in his fur. Beyond this, the performances mesh perfectly with the effects to utterly convince you that these are real creatures who think and feel. You never see Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn; you just see Caesar and Bad Ape.
I love the group of apes who surround Caesar. Rocket is his fiercely loyal lieutenant who carries some of the same scars as Caesar. Maurice is the most lovable of the apes and he really gets to shine in this film, carrying the most touching moments especially in his relationship with Nova. These characters have come so far with Caesar that you want them to survive too. They aren’t like the Autobots from Transformers where they don’t have personalities or relationships to each other; both Maurice and Rocket have been with Caesar from the start and have always remained loyal to him. You feel as much for them as you do for their leader.
The new additions to the cast are equally successful. Nova is the source of many of the touching moments in the film and she gives balance to the human/ape battle. However, my favourite character in this film is Bad Ape. I’ve liked Steve Zahn for a long time. He’s a very versatile actor and brings both pathos and humour to the role. All of the best jokes come from Bad Ape but he has real heart and soul. Harrelson is very good as well, basically playing Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. He gives the role a lot of depth and the clash between him and Caesar is unpredictable and thoughtful.
The best part of the film is Andy Serkis. Serkis is one of the best and underappreciated actors working today. How he doesn’t get award recognition for his performances in these films is beyond me. He is the pioneer of motion capture acting and pushes the character of Caesar to the edge. Serkis has made so much of Caesar’s journey that you see all his pain and follow him with an understanding of character that Marvel films could only dream of.
Matt Reeves directs this film with precision and confidence, shooting action in expansive wide shots and drawing from films such as Apocalypse Now, Schindler’s List and The Great Escape. I love these films and perhaps over time War for the Planet of the Apes might become my favourite. I would urge you to see this film because the more intelligent and heartfelt films like this we get the better.
War for the Planet of the Apes is in cinemas across the UK now. Image source: Foxmovies.com