When Rise of the Planet of the Apes was about to be released in 2011, I was very wary of it, because prequels, as a general rule, are horrible. However, Rise was a surprisingly great film and its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is practically a masterpiece. Now comes the third film in the series, War for the Planet of the Apes. Does it continue the streak of quality or does it fall into the typical traps of most trilogy-cappers?
Several years have passed since the war between apes and humans began. Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads the apes as they protect their forest home from incursions from the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his men. However, when tragedy strikes, Caesar sends his people off to find a new home, while he goes in search of revenge. He’s joined by his loyal apes, Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Along the way, they meet a human child, Nova (Amiah Miller), who has lost the ability to speak. They also befriend an ape unknown to them, Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who can also speak. Will Caesar find his revenge against the Colonel? Will his people escape to a new life away from humans?
War for the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film from start to finish and makes these current Planet of the Apes films the best trilogy since, possibly, the original Star Wars Trilogy. Though it is called War for the Planet of the Apes, there is a lot of introspection in this film as Caesar tries not only to win in battle with the humans, but also resolve the conflict within himself over killing Koba (Toby Kebbell) in the last film. The script by Mark Bomback and Director Matt Reeves is absolutely heart-wrenching in parts—if you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you’ll definitely get a little misty here and there. The core of the film is Caesar’s emotional journey and that’s what makes War for the Planet of the Apes such a great film. However, when the action does ramp up, it is topnotch.
Of course, when you talk about a Planet of the Apes film, you have to praise the incredible visual effects. The apes look so lifelike it’s amazing. However, a large part of what makes the apes so awesome is the human element. The actors who portray the apes and go through the motion capture process all do stellar work here. Andy Serkis is, of course, the God of Motion Capture, but to just call him that does a disservice to his talents as an actor. He is right there on set acting the whole time. He embodies Caesar and it’s because of Serkis’ fantastic performance that Caesar is such a compelling character. Konoval is spectacular as Maurice, who is my favorite of the apes. She brings such a gentle nature to the Bornean orangutan who serves as teacher to the child apes and advisor to Caesar. Notary is also great as Rocket. It’s so nice to see these three performers play these characters over the entire trilogy and really grow with them. Harrelson is suitably menacing as the Colonel, but you’ll find that he’s not just a mindless thug. When he finally meets Caesar, his motivations become very understandable. However, I think I did enjoy the more ambiguous nature of the conflict in Dawn a bit better than the one in War. Zahn is a welcome addition to the cast as Bad Ape, the comic relief in a film that sorely needs it. That’s not to say that the film is too serious, but Zahn adds just enough comedy in the right places to keep the film from becoming self-serious. I also really enjoyed Miller’s performance as Nova. Those who know the original films, know the importance of her name, although, these newer films don’t completely link up with the originals in a timeline sense, so you might have to consider these three more of a reboot than prequel series.
Overall, like its predecessors, War of the Planet of the Apes is an absolute homerun. In a year full of great movies so far, it really stands out as a quality product. I definitely lost myself in the film’s world and would love to see more movies with these characters. As I said, the film doesn’t completely link up with the originals—if that’s even the goal of this series—but the quality is far from lagging and another film would be more than welcome. See it.