War For The Planet of the Apes - Review

There are very few movies that get me "edge of my seat" nervous. The new Planet of the Apes movies are in those few movies. I am way more attached to some CGI apes than I actually should be. But it is because of the amazing storytelling that enthralls me. I was nervous about the newest chapter, mainly because everything set up in the previous two films were going to come to a head and I had to get mentally prepared for it. Continue reading to see how War For the Planet of the Apes shaped up against its two predecessors, and the other summer blockbusters it competes against. 

Apes is a very dense film, but in the best way possible. It doesn't have the status quo that a Marvel, DC, Disney or Star Wars film has but it can hold its own against any of them.

Caesar, the ape we saw as James Franco's friend in Rise of the Planet of the Apes is now an old grizzled war veteran. He can talk in full on sentences and is the most evolved we've seen of any ape. Andy Serkis does masterful work as Caesar. The CGI ape is merely a very high-tech and expensive costume, all of his mannerisms and actions are Serkis. That can be said for all of the primary ape characters. Acting is acting, and it is incredible in this movie whether it is actors performing motion capture, or the human characters like Woody Harrelson.

Speaking of Woody Harrelson, he was absolutely incredible in this. It seems that about 5 years or so ago he decided he wanted to actually do some serious acting. If you would have told me that the dumb bartender from Cheers would be an internally conflicted cop in True Detective, a military leader of the human race in Apes and have a role in the Han Solo Star Wars spinoff, I would have laughed at you.

Heavy films like this are actually enhanced by good comic relief. It's truly relief from all of the heavy, serious, emotional paces a film puts you through. Steve Zahn was fantastic as Bad Ape and added some much needed levity to the entire movie. It's a fine line to walk; because if a character goes too over the edge they end up like Jar Jar Binks, yet if they overcompensate then they become just as serious as the other characters and the film loses the comic relief. Bad Ape was funny, but he was useful too, he helped Caesar's cause and many things in the film wouldn't have gone the way they did if not for him. It's nice that the character mattered. If you remove him, you get a different story.

The brilliance of these Apes films are that you root against the humans. The audience wants the apes to be victorious and have the planet. Its a strange dynamic not found in many other films. Usually the audience is meant to root for the human race against the alien invaders, or the monster or whatever the threat may be. Matt Reeves gives humanity and depth to the apes and humans alike, so it's not because the humans lack depth. It is an awesome trope that can't be used often, so the commentary and the message it portrays when done correctly is a powerful one, which is how ugly humanity can be against each other.

War For the Planet of the Apes is not unlike some older westerns you've seen, and it shares many similarities with this year's Logan. That is complete coincidence of course and it isn't that distracting. Most of the similar aspects in both films are done so well and are earned by the work the preceding chapters did before them.

The way Matt Reeves moves the camera around warrants a viewing of this on the big screen if possible. It is a more powerful film when you can see the emotion of every ape very clearly. Reeves is clearly comfortable with telling these large scale stories in an intimate way, so he should do just find with the next standalone Batman movie.

Apes follows another trend in movies lately, albeit a bad one. There is little to no female representation in the movie. There is one significant female human character (who says nothing) and two female apes who get approximately two to three minutes of screen time combined. I'd have to watch again to be sure, but I'm pretty sure this fails the Bechdel Test. Sure, there is a good reason why the one female human character doesn't talk, but there is no reason why there couldn't have been other female characters, ape and human alike.

This movie is a worthwhile blockbuster with no cheap tricks or shallow, shoe-horned moments. Every character moment and plot thread is earned, and it does a nice job of capping off the story to make one of the strongest all-together trilogies ever.

With that being said, the story can continue. After all, this is Planet of the Apes, not Pacific Northwest of the Apes which is all we've seen in this trilogy. I never want them to remake the original Planet of the Apes film, with spaceships and time travel so prequels leading up to that are fine. Parallel stories running adjacent to this one, happening somewhere else will be welcome, especially if the quality stays this high.

War For the Planet of the Apes is now in theaters.


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