Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

To be honest, I was going into War for the Planet of the Apes with an idea of what I was in for. Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen and heard about the film up to that point, I thought audiences were going into a film where Caesar would be leading his species in an all out assault to preserve their survival against what is left of mankind, yet I was unprepared for what really was in store.

apesposter

Image by 20th Century Fox

Essentially, War occurs two years post-Dawn and well distant from the events that transpired in Rise but not totally disconnected. After Caesar suffers an unimaginable loss that rocks him to his core, he takes it on himself to journey across the wintery wilds to find a man called The Colonel and kill him. Caesar is aided by his most trusted simian companions, Maurice, Luca and Rocket and pick up a few stragglers along the way in the peculiar Bad Ape and a mute girl who is later dubbed Nova; this journey to find the Colonel fills Caesar with inner turmoil to hold on to the principles he held so dear to him or embrace the darkness within himself to exact his vengeance, like Koba did. This inner battle within the first super ape is the War that takes center stage in the film.

Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer of the film, impressed me in bringing Caesar grand story to a stirring finish in the fashion that he did. Reeves and Mark Bomback have crafted a story with heavy biblical references to allow their protagonist to shine in the brightest way they could and truly cement his legacy as his story comes full circle.

Essentially, the Planet of the Apes franchise in its entirety is a story about hubris; how living creatures create their own undoing and there is a success in how this story, Caesar’s story, was told. In War, Caesar wrestles with his darkness brought on by immense grief, he suffers like Christ suffers, he led his species to freedom as Moses did, every action he takes in this movie, shapes the course of his future and the future of his apes and this story leaves a profound and thought-provoking experience with audiences and it resonates when they leave the theater.

I especially took pleasure in how the film handled Caesar’s relationship with Nova. Before the two meet, Caesar dives right into his inner demons to the point where he is almost apathetic, remorseless and bloodthirsty but Nova reminds him of the humanity inside him and how that humanity has kept him from becoming Koba; in a way that theme of humanity and hubris tied all of the films together.

Andy Serkis’ performance is once again, high caliber! The CGI visual effects are just a costume but he breathes life into his characters and audiences are taken for an emotional ride with his performance as Caesar. From the moment, Caesar makes his presence known in the picture, everyone becomes invested; Serkis commands the screen as this character and doesn’t let up for an instant!

Woody Harrelson is as good as I’ve ever seen him as the vicious and bloodthirsty Colonel. Steve Zahn is a hoot as Bad Ape, Amiah Miller is terrific as Nova, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Ty Olsson, Sara Canning, Aleks Paunovic, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, Alessandro Juiliani and Toby Kebbell were all outstanding in the roles they played.

Michael Giacchino’s score, Michael Seresin’s cinematography, James Chinlund’s production design, William Hoy and Stan Salfas’ editing were all very satisfying. The visual effects were as elite as you might see all year.

I went into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting something totally different but I was completely washed away by how emotionally resonating, thought-provoking and creatively assembled this movie was. You won’t be flat out excited by it, but you will be immersed in how Caesar cements his legacy and how his tale comes to a close.

The Planet of the Apes franchise finishes on a very strong note.

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Movie of the Week: War For the Planet of the Apes

The epic conclusion to the legend that is Caesar is coming to a close this weekend. The first of the super-apes has inherited the sins of the wicked Koba and now what is left of mankind has dispatched a military force to quell the threat the apes possess. Caesar led his species to freedom in Rise, he did all that he could to maintain that peace in Dawn, but now that seems so long ago. For his home, his family, his future, Caesar has finally embraced the fact that now is the time to fight for his future and this is War. This is the war that will determine who is the superior species on Earth. This is the war that will shape the course of the future going forward. The War For the Planet of the Apes has begun!

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenwriters: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Max Lloyd-Jones, Gabriel Chavarria, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and Devyn Dalton.

What am I expecting to see?: I have enjoyed this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise thus far and from what I’ve heard regarding this film in the past few weeks, is that War For the Planet of the Apes is the best one yet and could be the best film to come out this summer! I expect this movie to do what every final installment in a trilogy should do: tie everything together and turn up the intensity another notch. I expect Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson to command the screen and this movie to be technically elite in every aspect. I’ve been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes for a long time.

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Apes do not want war!-Andy Serkis as Caesar

Ten years have passed since the events that transpired in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Since Caesar, played by Golden Globe nominee Andy Serkis (“King Kong,” “The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King”), and his legion of genetically enhanced apes began their uprising in San Francisco, the numbers of humanity have reportedly been exponentially diminished due to a virus that broke out at the same time as Caesar’s uprising began.

Andy Serkis give a powerful performance as Caesar in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

In that ten year span, Caesar and his family have been flourishing in a peaceful community and haven’t come in contact with any human since. All of that changes, when a man named Carver, played by Kirk Acevedo (“Invincible”), shoots an ape in self-defense and his actions will spur reactions which could jeopardize everything Caesar has worked so hard to build.

Carver is part of a team led by Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”). They are part of a surviving faction of humans who are genetically immune to the virus, the humans call “simian flu,” and they are running out of energy to power what is left of San Francisco and their only hope is to revive an old hydroelectric dam that happens to be in Caesar’s territory.

Jason Clarke (center) leads a small party to request Caesar’s assistance in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Though tensions are high and the possibility of all-out war is only a spark away, Malcolm takes it on himself to venture back to the ape’s territory and request Caesar to allow himself and a small team, including his wife Ellie, played by Keri Russell (“August Rush”), and their son Alexander, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Road,” “Paranorman”), to repair the dam to restore power to the city.

The leader of the human colony Dreyfus, played by Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “The Dark Knight”), does not believe the apes can be trusted to broker a deal, while on Caesar’s side, his friend and ally Koba, played by Toby Kebbell (“War Horse,” “Wrath of the Titans”) hates humans on the principle that they tortured and experimented on him while he was a young lab monkey and wants retribution by any means necessary.

Caesar slowly fosters a trusting relationship with Malcom and his family but that bond will be tested by forces that will usher the inevitable: the prospect of war. Humanity and ape-kind cannot share the mantle of dominant species of the Earth and Caesar will hold the fate of his tribe of primates and the future of humanity in his hands.

In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) decides to take the rebooted franchise to a darker, intense yet familiar place and the result is a very well-established film pulsating with drama and visual allure despite the flaws to the concept of select characters.

This movie is essentially Caesar’s tale about trying to protect his family and his home from the inevitable and unforeseeable, and Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance is the star of the show. Serkis as Caesar, Kebbell as Koba, Karin Konoval (“Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”) as Maurice, Judy Greer (“The Descendents,” “Love and Other Drugs”) as Cornelia, Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes and the rest of the cast in their primate roles did a very remarkable job.

The human cast gave decent performances themselves. Clarke, Russell, Smit-McPhee, Acevedo, Oldman while not collectively gathering a lot of screen-time, the film follows the apes more than the humans, were all decent; no one gave any noticeable/memorable performances but the acting wasn’t disappointing.

Toby Kebbell as Koba is still scarred from what he suffered at the hands of humans in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Matt Reeves stepped in to direct this feature and he did a commendable job. Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mark Bomback (“The Wolverine”) wrote a screenplay that was a little too ape-focused, but highlighted the fragility of the time for both sides of this conflict and that allowed the tension of the film to be felt by the audience.

This movie would be nothing without the top-quality visual effects, but this movie is also brilliant when it comes to the sound and the editing which allows the movie to flow very naturally and give the audience a chance to digest what is happening.

The flaws in this film fall on what is done to the human characters. Granted this is Caesar’s movie and the film does have right to follow him, when it comes to the humans they are written to come in and out of the central plot so abruptly; they do what they are supposed to do and then they are never heard from again.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a very exciting feature that leaves audiences to speculate the possibilities of what is going to happen next. It is a visually daring feature with a story that is easy to grasp and despite its flaws it is a very enjoyable film to see.