War for the Planet of the Apes Review

War for the Planet of the Apes - Poster #3

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nothing less than a dark horse success story. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stunned again and showed us that it wasn’t a fluke. Three years after the Dawn, War for the Planet of the Apes is ready to conclude the story that began in Rise. But does War take everything that was great about the last two films and create a perfect conclusion to the trilogy?

Fortunately, yes. Although War of the Planet of the Apes isn’t as good as Dawn, it’s still a great film. It also continues to highlight the great talents of the incomparable Andy Serkis. This film once again raises the question of whether or not motion-capture performers deserve the same awards considerations as any other actor.

War for the Planet of the Apes follows Caesar as he is forced into a fierce war against an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. Caesar goes on a quest to finish the fight and avenge his kind. Once the two finally come face-to-face, their epic battle will determine the fate of both species.

The film is an excellent conclusion to one of the best prequel trilogies of all time.

Much like Dawn, War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t your typical summer blockbuster. Director Matt Reeves consciously puts all of the audiences’ emotional investment into Caesar and his apes. Gone are times where we may root for humanity. Because in War for the Planet, it is humanity that has gone back to its vicious and barbaric ways. It is the apes that epitomize the goodness of mankind. Also, Reeves uses some awesome visual and audio nods to Heston’s Planet of the Apes. It’s kind of a nice segue into that film.

Not to mention, the screenwriters go dark in War for the Planet. This is a more personal journey for Caesar and thus the comedy, action, and drama are all heightened in the threequel. The comedy and action keep things light. Yet the film’s drama amps up the emotional side of Caesar’s journey. Reeves ties it all together to create a well-crafted and focused character drama.

But as good as the storyline is, the film’s final act falls just a bit flat. Seemingly everything that happens at the end just conveniently occurs. It’s the kind of reaction where you’ll go: “Oh, of course that happened…” It’s a weak conclusion to such a great build-up.

War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t your typical summer blockbuster.

Of course, our love for the apes wouldn’t be possible without the performances by the motion-capture actors. Obviously, Andy Serkis is easily the best part of the entire film. By now, it’s almost a given to say that Serkis deserves an award for his various motion-capture work. In War for the Planet, Serkis provides his most emotional, nuanced, and impressive performance yet.

The biggest scene-stealer in the film is Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape. Zahn put together an extremely funny and humanistic performance as a chimpanzee. He may be the comedy relief but in a film this emotional, it’s nice to laugh really hard before shedding a tear. Just after one film, Bad Ape has become one of my favorite characters in the series.

Karin Konoval and Terry Notary also deliver nice performances as Maurice and Rocket, respectively. They may not talk but they still provide some nuanced performances. The motion-capture cast is solid all around.

A film is only as good as its villain and Woody Harrelson is as evil as they come. As good as Harrelson is he doesn’t come close to being as memorable a villain as Koba, though. Woody Harrelson does some evil things yet he doesn’t have an interesting arc. In fact, the Colonel is a bit of a one-dimensional villain.

Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is the most emotional film in the series and most of it is because of Andy Serkis. Over three films, audiences have grown to love Caesar and his lovable band of apes. As good as the film, though, is there are some flaws in the film. Yet despite the one-dimensional villain and convenient third-act, the film is an excellent conclusion to one of the best prequel trilogies of all time. In the end, be prepared to put your two fists together and say, “apes together strong.”

Rating: 4/5 atoms

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