Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes doesn’t settle as a summer action movie about Apes vs. Humans, it asks the hard questions about morality and survival, delivering a satisfying and compelling conclusion on top of a technically well-crafted film thanks to a bold script and sympathetic performances.

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

The Planet of the Apes has always been something more than a blockbuster and a groundbreaking visual effects trilogy.

The War of the Planet of the Apes does more than just pit humans and apes against each other. Instead of just setting up a war with all the whizbang action and explosion that define blockbuster movies, scriptwriter Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback uses its characters to drive the story.

Caesar just wants his specie to thrive but keeps getting hunted by humans who are now the endangered species. He sets on a path of vengeance, only to discover the unexpected consequences of his one-way quest. It’s a typical hero journey, but the narrative is molded into a western that paints a post-apocalyptic landscape and turns into a prison war drama that asks hard questions about its world.

It doesn’t need to be mentioned that the visual effects here are amazing, but the cast still deserves praise because the acting still comes from the actor. There are plenty of close-ups here, and you can see the performance beyond the CGI. Andy Serkis and the rest of the cast did well in delivering sympathetic performances, with Steve Zahn adding levity to the movie’s bleak moments.

Don’t worry, The War for the Planet of the Apes is still an entertaining blockbuster movie. It has deft camerawork that delivers painterly images throughout. In the opening act the movie already gives us a good introduction even without the annotations – soldiers make their way through the forest with helmets proclaiming themselves to be ape killers, then the camera hovers above the golden trails of their bullets later on as they do so. The action sequences focuses on the the consequences of these skirmishes, which lends meaning to the warfare onscreen.

While the plot expands beyond Caesar’s story to tell us that both the survival of the apes and humans hang on the balance, it’s very obvious which one the movie favors.

Woody Harrelson plays a typical war-mongering megalomaniac, who could be conveniently disposed of even without Caesar’s help. The rest of the humans are also ape-killing machines that any mercy deigned on these bi-peds is a death sentence.

Everything in this nearly 3 hour movie is designed to goad sympathy for the intelligent apes, complete with a child character as a plot device. Plot conveniences are also on their side too, featuring the world’s worst prison security.

Still, this is a Planet of the Apes trilogy after all and its movies have something more to say than its obvious conclusion.

The War of the Planet of the Apes is not just about the War. It’s also about the complexities that turn it into nothing more than the survival of two camps – vengeance, control, infighting and blind hatred. At the same time, it also tackles morality within an individual and in a large social scale – is it justifiable to betray your kind for your own survival? should you give empathy to someone whose specie is responsible for the countless deaths of your own? should you let sentient creatures live when they’re existence is the reason – albeit unintentionally – that your specie is going extinct?

The War of the Planet of the Apes is a satisfying addition to a blockbuster trilogy that made you think. Rise is a medical drama of humans playing God; Dawn is a Shakespearean tragedy of a leader, and War is an epic conclusion to the journey of a legend and a beginning of a new world.

The Planet of the Apes is one of the few best trilogies in cinema because it breaks the mold of a blockbuster movie in intelligent and compelling ways. In the age of technological evolution where gene-editing is now possible thanks to CRISPR – humans must be careful in what they create because Caesar – just like Frankenstein – is a reflection of his creators, and therein lies the problem.

My Rating: 8.5/10

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Again, didn’t think I wanted to see this one initially-turns out I do. Real nice review, BE.

    1. Arline says:

      Thanks! yeah it was great. Thoroughly relieved that this isn’t just some war summer blockbuster movie.

  2. Dan O. says:

    A tad too serious, but still compelling. Nice review.

    1. Arline says:

      Thanks! The Planet of the Apes movies are all a tad too serious for an ape trilogy, probably why they put Steve Zahn in.

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