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.


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.


2014: A summary about this summer in cinema

The “Back to School Era” is almost coming to a close and with it, the summer of 2014 is well into its twilight. September 22, will officially be the first day of fall but with all of the back to school shopping and the fact that my next semester at NYU begins in a few days, I quote Tony Stark from the first “Iron Man” film:

Yeah, vacation’s over.

Anyway, here’s my opinion about this year’s crop of summer blockbusters: “Meh.” I’m saying, that this year’s collection of big budget flicks were highly anticipated but one way or another, they missed the mark in terms of effectiveness. This summer is highlighted, by aliens, heroes, apes, turtles, dragons and mutants. There were some defining moments and tragic letdowns in all, so let’s take a look at the best and worst of the blockbusters of 2014.

Surprise of the summer: “Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel’s band of anti-heroic outlaws are the biggest surprise of the year.

When this feature was announced as an installment of Marvel’s Avengers Initiative, I thought it was doomed for failure. I understood that it was a necessary platform to introduce the “overlord of villainy” whom the Avengers would stand toe-to-toe with in their final battle, but once I finally saw the finished product, I am proud to admit that I was impressed. James Gunn, did a great job bringing the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe to the big screen and he did right with the cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Glenn Close and a great assortment of diverse actors. “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a surprising and entertaining feature.

Biggest Disappointment of the summer: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The rebooted tale of Peter Parker and his alter-ego is beginning to spiral into a chaotic mess of a franchise. Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield began this project of taking Spider-Man into his early origins and went in with big shoes to fill trying to follow Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s version. Spider-Man had to contend with three villains in his second outing: Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, Dane Dehaan’s Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro and this movie failed when it tried to juggle multiple subplots and it simply couldn’t handle everything Webb and the writers wanted to accomplish and now the franchise is at a trending downwards-crossroads. Big disappointment.

Best Superhero Movie of the summer: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The First Avenger earns top marks in his second solo outing

Marvel Studios has it all going on! Phase 2 of Marvel’s Avengers Initiative closed with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but the film that came before it was top of the class in terms of the superhero genre outings of the year. The Russo Brothers took the helm of Captain Rogers’ solo installment, pitting Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson against the mysterious Winter Soldier and the resurgent H.Y.D.R.A., while setting the stage for the next grand adventure that lies in store for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and they did it with aplomb! This was the smartest, action-packed, outstanding superhero summer blockbuster of the year.

Worst Superhero Movie of the summer: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

I don’t want to say Spidey fell on his face in his second outing but…

Spidey may have won against the Goblin and Electro but he failed to win over audiences. The biggest lesson to learn from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is that handling multiple plots in a rushed method is hazardous to a film’s chances for success.

Best Visual Effects: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This was a close call between “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain America: the Winter Soldier,” “Godzilla,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” but the film with the elite visual effects had to go to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” What separates “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” from the rest of the films of summer 2014 is not only the quality of the visual effects but also the subtlety of their usage as well as the camerawork/cinematography utilized by Michael Seresin.

HTTYD 2 didn’t get the respect it deserved at the box office, but it was first class in my book

Best Animated Film of the summer: “How to Train Your Dragon 2

This was hardly a close call at all. In fact, I consider this film to be one of the best of the year. The flying sequences, the setting designs, the characters were all as lush and beautiful as the story written and directed by Dean DuBlois. I expect this film to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be one of the best animated features of 2014.

Best Motion Picture of the summer: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

This was another close call, but in terms of overall craftsmanship, entertainment and exceeding expectations “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” ended up coming out on top when it came to the class of 2014 summer blockbusters.

Worst Motion Picture of the summer: (tie) “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Michael Bay may feel insulted by this but this was no contest. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” had a lot of shiny bells and whistles, but let’s face it, there was virtually no substance behind it and the plot-holes were as large as Texas. Michael Bay must have exhausted his personal ammunition cash making this unnecessary sequel and maybe that was the entire point of making this unnecessary sequel. As for the movie he produced, not directed (that “honor” belonged to Jonathan Liebesman), the sole honest truth about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is that when people saw it, scores of brain cells lost their reason for existing. A lot of factors worked against the live-action reboot of the heroes in the half-shell. Let’s leave it at that.

Final Summary: To be honest, this year’s summer blockbusters weren’t exactly awesome as a whole but there were steady and entertaining films released this summer. Anyway, that is the final word of the summer season of 2014 blockbusters and now we can look ahead to the fall season where potential Oscar contenders could come out to play. It will probably be a while since I come back to give reviews; nothing notable will be out until at least mid-September, but I will be about if anything newsworthy needs to be reported. Check ya later.