Review: Let’s start with a little excerpt of what has gone so far in Planet of the Apes reboot universe. As you might have known (in fact, you’ll learn/re-learn about this in 3 opening minutes), simian flu has wiped most of the humanity, leaving few of them stranded on the planet that used to be theirs. Unbeknownst to them, the planet isn’t bound to them anymore. After the fall of men, the ‘Rise’ of apes is the next phase and the new ‘Dawn’ of civilization embarks.
War for the Planet of the Apes begins several years after the event in Dawn, where human wages war against apes. Human military led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) conducts man-hunt on ape leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The plan gone awry, but humanity has succeeded in killing Caesar’s family and the dream of reconciliation. This event scars the peaceful ape to the extent that he’s driven into waging his war against men, hence the title.
While it might start in Full Metal Jacket fashion with fireworks of bullets against rains of arrows, ‘the war’ in War might provide less blood, explosions, and killings than any ideal war movies. There are confrontations between men and apes at some point; and, there’s homage to classic war movies—from the explicit reference like ‘Ape-pocalypse Now!’ to some spiritual connection to The Bridge on the River Kwai and the spoofed Vietnam war horror in multiple layers; but the visceral war that becomes the focus of War mostly is an internal one, suggesting that the title might be a little misleading.
Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback throws an effective catalyst in shape of Harrelson’s vicious Colonel whose character juxtaposes perfectly with Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now in terms of ruthlessness and backstory. Colonel is a face of Shakespearean villain whose destructive nature extends from physical to mental. He’s the one who ‘spice up’ the war for Caesar—inflicting further interspecies war and that war inside the ape leader, between his ideal peace and desire of vengeance.
With 140-minute presentation, War slowly cooks up all the pivotal points—from the warfare, the mutation of the simian flu (which nudges continuity to the 1968 Planet of the Apes) involving a human girl by Amiah Miller, the POW conflicts like in River Kwai, and myriads of references to the 1968 film as well as the sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Reeves patches all those elements into unison, which connects perfectly into Dawn and completes what Rise has initiated while pays respectful homage to the classic, seamlessly as Weta Digital’s mesmerizing VFX seamlessly blends with organic natural cinematography courtesy of Michael Seresin.
As photorealistic as ever, all the apes are only as strong as the actors behind the mo-cap. And, never had I witnessed before any actor strongly and emotionally performing in performance-capture the way Andy Serkis does in War. Serkis convinces us digital effects and acting can go hand-in-hand; and, when they do so, the result is riveting. Have you ever seen an ape so emotionally thrilled before? The answer is a big NO. It’s high time that performance capture granted more recognition.
The war might not be as expected, yet, War still presents the most perfect kind of war to conclude Caesar’s ape trilogy subtly. The subject might be bleak, but there’s light tone here and there, especially when it comes to Steve Zahn’s pariah chimp. As Michael Giacchino’s mesmerizing score swipes in, War for the Planet of the Apes has established itself as a heartwarming summer blockbuster at its finest way.
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)