MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “War for the Planet of the Apes” stars Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, King Kong ), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, Now You See Me), Steve Zahn (Captain Fantastic, Dallas Buyers Club), Karin Konoval (2012, Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Amiah Miller (Lights Out, House by the Lake), Terry Notary (Kong: Skull Island, Warcraft: The Beginning), Ty Olsson (X-Men 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), Michael Adamthwaite (Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu [TV series], The Twilight Saga: New Moon), Toby Kebbell (Warcraft: The Beginning, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), and Gabriel Chavarria (East Los High [TV series], Lowriders). It was directed by Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield), who also wrote it with Mark Bomback (The Wolverine, Live Free or Die Hard). Two years after the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar (Serkis) and his colony are threatened by a northern military led by the ruthless Colonel (Harrelson). Hiding away proves to be a useless option, as Caesar will have to find a way to save the apes and relocate without anyone getting harmed.
In my small span of life, I haven’t really been given the opportunity to witness an epic film franchise, besides the behemoth that is the MCU; although Marvel has been churning out some instant hits, not all of them make for greats. I didn’t see “Lord of the Rings” when it was hitting theaters, nor was I alive to see the colossal “Star Wars” classic trilogy burst onto the screen (though I did see a prequel on the silver screen). However, I was given the chance to see a movie trilogy evolve into something potent; something fantastic. What started back in 2011 as a prequel suddenly became a concept of high multitude. I was thirteen when “Rise for the Planet of the Apes” squeezed into the Summer lineup; even then I had high hopes for it. The trailers looked awesome and interesting, and the overall product turned out to be wickedly entertaining. “Planet of the Apes” was back, though I never realized how a prequel could forge its own legacy. The story of Caesar the ape has to be one of the most fascinating, bombastic, little-known tales in cinema history. Not many people talk about, though I appreciate it’s smallness; call me selfish, but I like a feature that I love without hype. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” took three years to be released following its predecessor and “War” took just as long after that (I love how the math adds up nicely). Was I awaiting this film on the edge of my seat? Admittedly, no. Though “Dawn” left me reeling, wanting to see what would happen to Caesar and his colony with an army heading their direction. Three years was enough time for this franchise to be put on the back burner of my brain, however when the trailer released, I couldn’t tell you how pumped I was. This is it guys! The ultimate conclusion to such a wonderful trilogy! The sad thing is, like I’ve stated, not many people talk about it. I’m sorry it took long for me to post this review; believe me, “War” was the number one movie on my watch list for the Summer, though things got in the way of seeing it earlier. I walked into the theater yesterday to only a few patrons. Tuesday at 3:35 p.m. doesn’t necessarily scream a movie rush. I sat alone this time, without family around me to witness in awe at the stunning visuals and creative storytelling. It was a nice experience, though company would’ve been appreciated in order to fully discuss what just happened. “War for the Planet of the Apes” had high expectations to meet following the heels of “Dawn”; that one set a bar surprisingly high back in 2014. I knew that I was in for a great show, regardless of whether or not it met my standards. What I received was what I hoped for: a bittersweet, yet epic conclusion. Folks, this is it; they’ve done it. While it took me a while to figure this out, I fully believe that the cast and crew who got “War” made beat “Dawn” by inches, securing their trilogy as the one “that keeps getting better and better.” Let’s talk about why. First off, the visuals have improved immensely. I don’t know how, considering “Dawn” was genius in its special effects, but they did it. The apes are about as life-like as it gets, and their interaction with objects, people, and war is astounding. It’s truly revolutionary work that was put into making this. The cinematography that followed was simply gorgeous. I loved the locations, color tones, and atmosphere this somber film presented. It gave way to shaky, cold scenes and warm, heartfelt ones. Everything was sleek, right down to the single frame. Bravo to Matt Reeves for pulling off yet another beautifully looking picture. Next, the performances are almost flawless. Andy Serkis has solidified himself as the motion-capture genius. His work as Caesar moved me. Why is it that I can feel for an ape more than a human? Because it’s people like Serkis who make it believable and understanding in acting. Caesar, as a character, will go down as one of the best figures in cinema history, at least in my book. I’ve loved watching him grow throughout the course of the three films and thought his ending was poetic. The rest of the cast did just as good. Woody Harrelson, while not in as big a role as I thought, proved to be a worthy opponent. It may be the best performance he has turned in, and that’s saying something. Everyone who brought the apes to life deserve a round of applause; I especially liked the addition of Steve Zahn, who made for a nice comic relief character. I felt for these people, not only because of the acting but also because of the writing. The dialogue in this was exceptional, as well as the themes that rooted themselves within. Yes, not much meat was spoken, but it’s the actions that rang out in the small words. This story tackled a darker subject than its predecessors, which leads me to my next point to discuss. Caesar is two years older than he was in “Dawn,” making it seventeen years total since he talked to James Franco. Their bond in the first movie made Caesar separate from the other apes. He showed mercy to the humans, but now he is having difficulty in sharing compassion. I understand, and it really gets tough when a tragic sequence happens early on in the flick (which I won’t spoil). From that point on, Caesar teeters on the edge. He doesn’t want to turn into Koba (Kebbell), though the utter frustration and hatred inside him builds to a point where he can’t bear it. It’s fantastic inner conflict that affects what’s going on outside of body. Harrelson’s role in threatening the apes made for a great send-off conflict. I knew what the man was getting at, and while he was ruthless I understood him at the same time. Humanity, like in “Dawn,” is struggling to find a foothold in this ape world. They aren’t as cunning or smart as they used to be, and now with the introduction to new symptoms of the virus, it looks like the humans will be utterly destroyed for good. What makes the writing of this trilogy so good is that it makes you care for both sides, not only because you are a human, but because you are placed in both shoes. Harrelson did terrible things, but you couldn’t blame him. Caesar was turning into something bad himself, though you understand why as well. All of the characters are three-dimensional; it’s not a matter of bad guy versus good guy, but rather survival of the smartest. It was a gripping plot that had smooth pacing throughout. It knew when to be comical and dark, and there are plenty of brutal and gritty moments sprinkled throughout. The only issues I found when watching this movie surrounded the story itself. There were instances where I could easily predict what was going to happen, specifically in moments of the third act. It wasn’t difficult to figure out how things would end up or how conflicts would resolve. There wasn’t much that shocked me, which was upsetting. Sure, the story was gripping and at times tense, but if they splashed some unpredictable plot devices I would’ve been even happier. Aside from that, there isn’t much else to gripe about. “War for the Planet of the Apes” was a crushing send-off to a beautiful trilogy. I loved the performances, cinematography, and musical score (thank you Mr. Giacchino once more!). The story, while predictable, was fantastic as a whole. It was satisfying, and left a tear in my eye at the end which was necessary after seeing all of these in theaters. If you love this franchise or are interested, trust me; go see it while you can. Thank you Matt Reeves, Andy Serkis, and the rest of the people who made this franchise amazing. Though it is hard to say goodbye to Caesar, I must say that “War for the Planet of the Apes” was as good of a finisher as it gets; you’ve truly accomplished something special. FINAL SCORE: 93%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: