The rebooted trilogy that included digitally enhanced actors portraying apes, most notably Andy Serkis who played the lead, Caesar, comes to its conclusion in “War for the Planet of the Apes.” A film directed by Matt Reeves and also starring Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Amiah Miller.
After “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar was learning to speak and had established himself as the leader of the ape species. In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” we learn that that species has advanced far beyond where we thought it could go and by living on their own, they’ve developed silent communication only leaning on Caesar to speak to humans when necessary.
That is pretty much the same feel and mood we see here in this story. However, in “Dawn” we were given both sides of the story much more and could decide which side to root for. This story, which was written by Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves, focuses solely on the apes story and how they survive in a so called “war.”
Let’s talk about the war for a moment, too. For a film that has the title “War…” in it there were very few action scenes. Besides the opening 20 minutes and the last, 10 minutes, there is almost two hours of walking, talking or lack thereof.
However, back on a positive note, the acting by Serkis is once again magnificent and the entire visual effects team did a tremendous job. It is easily the most impressive motion capture work I’ve ever seen on film. Towards the end when things start going down for real, you start caring for animated creatures that you know are just 1s and 0s but look so life like.
New characters in this entry are fantastic characters, namely Amiah Miller’s portrayal of Nova. She brought such tenderness and innocence to the screen by the look on her face. Steve Zahn’s motion capture ape performance as Bad Ape was a much needed comedic boost every now and then to bring the film to reality and not seem so serious. Finally, Woody Harrelson’s portrayal as the main human villain was deep, raw and emotionally connecting in moments. However at other moments, it would be too campy and heavy-handed.
I also want to quickly give a tip of the cap to Michael Giacchino who composed the score for the film. It was dark, brooding and constantly kept you on edge with a sense of dread. I noticed it, right as the 20th Century Fox logo was on screen, but I also thought about the music about 30 minutes into the film because it plays such a role in setting each scene.
“War of the Planet of the Apes” will work as a solid bookend to this trilogy. It has a satisfying last 10 minutes, however there is no war. Rather, it is more of an imprisoned, and try to escape type of film. Frankly, it feels too small to have the title that it carries, however it is well made and the performances are solid across the board. Well done, Matt Reeves and team.
3.5 stars out of 5.