Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) *Apes, Indeed, STRONG!!!*

War for the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprisingly good movie.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was an outstanding movie.  War for the Planet of the Apes completes the prequel trilogy to the Planet of the Apes franchise with a science fiction classic.  Combining practical F/X and state-of-the-art motion capture performances, the human and ape cast combine to tell a powerful narrative that binds all three films into a powerful tale about the fall of humanity and the rise of a new civilization.

Director Matt Reeves has elevated himself with Dawn and War into one of the best directors in Hollywood, and delivers a finale to this trilogy that is in no way the film you expect when you walk into the theaters.  A very smartly done recap informs us that it has been two years since the end of Dawn when the human army was on its way to begin what we thought was going to be the titular war.  Caesar has, instead, been hiding his people in the woods, hiding, moving around, and the film opens with humans finally cornering the apes.  What was contained in the trailers, that most assumed was this final battle between the rising and falling civilizations takes place in the film’s first act, sets up Woody Harrelson’s wickedly delightful Colonel, and throws a hard twist into your expectations for what this film is going to be.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so that’s all I’ll say about plot (the twists are too good, too smart, and too powerful to throw them away in a review).

War for the Planet of the Apes

One plot point I will dwell on is that the climactic fight between Caesar and Koba at the end of Dawn in which Caesar breaks his own rule and kills another ape has massive repercussions in this film.  That’s one of the few things I didn’t quite feel were right with Dawn; Caesar justifying Koba’s death.  Two years later, that decision is still haunting Caesar, it’s changed Caesar, it’s changed how Caesar plans and reacts, and the apes who followed Koba’s rebellion did not return to the fold.  I thought that was an extremely wise bit of writing (Reeves also co-wrote the script), and it makes Dawn’s climax even more powerful in retrospect.

Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes

What can you say about Andy Serkis at this point.  I just wrote a whole paragraph where I talked about Caesar like he was a real being, because that’s what Serkis has made him into.  What began with Gollum has been perfected in Caesar.  Gollum was a supporting character.  Caesar carries these films and the mo-cap is so good that you don’t even think about the apes as being F/X.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Serkis’ command of his body and the nuance he puts into ever facial expression of Caesar and his quiet, steely, and now fully fluent vocals have made this the most astonishing performance in Serkis’ career.  The rest of the ensemble shines too, especially Steve Zahn as Bad Ape (a badly needed bit of balanced comedy in a film that is very grim) and Karin Konoval as Maurice.

War for the Planet of the Apes

If you’ve enjoyed the previous Apes films, this is going to be a wonderful finale.  If you haven’t given the trilogy a chance because Planet of the Apes isn’t your thing, hey, it wasn’t really mine before this won me over.  I have a few quibbles, and I think they could have trimmed this ten minutes or so, but this is one of the best movies of the year, not just a treat for sci-fi genre lovers.  APES. TOGETHER. STRONG!!!


6 thoughts on “Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) *Apes, Indeed, STRONG!!!*”

  1. Dave, I did not read your review because i want to go in as cold as possible. It is unusual for Hollywood to put out a genuine trilogy, and all I needed to know was that the film was a satisfying finish. That seems to be the consensus, and your opinion cements it. It’s rare for a franchise to utterly captivate and hook me, yet out of the blue, here comes Planet of the Apes. Go figure.

    I may actually see four or five films this week, if I can find the time. Dunkirk, Apes, SM, and (sorry) Valerian, which might end up being the genre film of the summer for me (right now Dunkirk is looking like it might be the winner overall, but expectations tend to lead to so much disappointment). Also I have it on good authority that The Big Sick is fantastic, and I want to see Baby Driver. But per my custom, I’m starting with the films that require a movie screen to get the most out of them, and working down to the ones that will play well in my den. So Dunkirk first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ll love Apes, I have Dunkirk tonight, and I need to see Baby Driver. I totally didn’t bash Valerian in the Theaters column lol. Gonna be a busy weekend on the site with all the Comic Con trailers and news. Btw, you can see all the news that goes to the Facebook page now by scrolling down the left side of the home page and seeing the Twitter feed which will give you all the headlines and take you to the articles.


    1. I thought it was so interesting the way they tricked us with the advertising so that all the human vs. ape war was over in the first act and the rest was about humanity destroying itself. I’ve seen it twice now, and I think it’s Dawn’s equal, but they’re SO different, that they just excel at being what they were intended to be. It gave just enough nods to the original to be respectful, but this is the seminal Planet of the Apes arc, no matter the future of the franchise. Thanks so much for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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