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.

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: The Good Dinosaur

Once again, Disney and Pixar made an animated feature that can easily pull the heartstrings of both children and the inner-children of adult audiences. In their latest adventure, we have a cross between a heartwarming coming-of-age tale and a classic yarn about a boy and his pet. Sort of.

Image by Disney-Pixar

The Good Dinosaur explores a fascinating concept: What if the asteroid that struck the Earth millions of years ago, the one that wiped out all of the dinosaurs, missed?

The Good Dinosaur follows a young Apatosaurus named Arlo, voiced by Raymond Ochoa, who is separated from his home and family. Arlo is accompanied by a feral wolf-boy dubbed Spot, voiced by Jack Bright, and together they embark on an incredible adventure to get Arlo back to his family. Sound familiar?

If so, that’s because this delightful Disney-Pixar feature plays on the tropes of many familiar themes of Disney movies past, but that doesn’t hinder this movie’s identity in the slightest. Lush and eye-popping animation, and tender story make up the core of what The Good Dinosaur is.

Image by Disney-Pixar

Essentially, The Good Dinosaur takes cues from animated classics like The Lion King, especially with scenes between Arlo and his Poppa, voiced by Jeffrey Wright, and companion-based features like Finding Nemo, Arlo and Spot are journeying throughout the mountainous landscape, encountering exotic and dangerous creatures, on their quest back home, with a little bit of Homeward Bound thrown in.

Recently, I heard that this movie could be interpreted as a Western and the more I thought about it, the more I saw that connection. Arlo is this young yellow-bellied farmboy living out in this mountainous-area/wilderness, who ends up herding buffalo, dodging rustlers, with his trusty and protective companion at his side and ultimately returns home after discovering his inner courage; I definitely think this film takes cues from a western or two.

I definitely believe that director Peter Sohn, screenwriter Meg LeFauve, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann and Bob Peterson have formed something that will linger with audiences in terms of story and the story meshes with visuals so beautifully, moments are created. For instance, when Arlo and Spot are bonding by the riverbed about the families they are separated from, I thought that was an aching and resonating moment from The Good Dinosaur.

Meg LeFauve did a fine job writing such a sentimental, funny and well-rounded story. Every loose end, every subplot, every detail comes full-circle in the end and I applaud the effort that went into making this film as strong as the visuals.

Visually, you could take this movie, frame by frame and hang those frames individually in an art museum. Either running though a flock of birds who take wing when they are startled, the Forrest Woodbush, voiced by director Peter Sohn, emerging from the woods to encounter Arlo and Spot, the animation in this movie is superb; quality Disney-Pixar at its best.

When it comes to the vocal cast, they do a good job. Jeffrey Wright, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Pacquin, Sam Elliott all contribute to the overall story, each voice makes their character memorable.

I must credit Harley Jessup’s production design, the art department, the visual effects and of course the animation department. This movie is utterly gorgeous to look at and it especially works well in 3D.

The editing by Stephen Schaffer works very nicely. The story flows steadily and it doesn’t truly skip a beat in terms of the visual storytelling.

The Good Dinosaur truly is one of the best animated films of this year and a worthy addition to the legacy Disney and Pixar have established in the twenty years they have worked together.

Now the time has come to ask the question has The Good Dinosaur surpassed Inside Out as the animated film to beat? Tough question, even tougher to contemplate, but I’m going to have to say no, however it is up there.

I could see Inside Out or The Good Dinosaur winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in a few months.

I can’t exactly say that The Good Dinosaur is one of the year’s best films though. This is reasonably imaginative and it does pay homage to the films that came before it though, that I will respect, it’s just aside from the jaw-dropping visuals and visual appeal, the impact leaves much to be desired, but I walked away from The Good Dinosaur quite pleased.

I would definitely encourage anyone who is curious about The Good Dinosaur to go to theaters and see it. It’s very touching and I think kids and parents will thoroughly enjoy it.

Sidenote: I’d like to take a quick moment to celebrate that this is my 500th blog post! Yay!