War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – Review

What, no time traveling apes? By the third installment of the original Planet of the Apes series the Earth had been blown to smithereens making options on how to get a sequel going rather limited, but the lack of a planet would not deter the studio from making more money so they stuck some apes in a spaceship and had them thrown back in time to land in the present. That’s some bloody creative bullshit right there. Ten years after Tim Burton’s failed attempt in rebooting the series the studio decided to avoid that mess by going the prequel route with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where we were treated to an installment far better than it had any right to be, and now with the third chapter director Matt Reeves gives us an entry that is even grander and more emotionally charged than its two predecessors.

This film opens with ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) dealing with the fallout from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,where the hate filled ape Koba had betrayed him and led an attack on the humans who Caesar had been working with towards a peaceful alliance, and now the only thing Caesar wants is to find a safe home for his people before they are wiped out by the army that arrived in answer to the humans mayday. This of course is easier said than done especially when the particular military outfit chasing after him and his people are led by an obsessed Colonel (Woody Harrelson) hell-bent on wiping every ape off the planet to ensure humanities survival.

Note: Using guerilla tactics against actual gorillas may have been a mistake.

*minor spoilers ahead*

An emotional exhausted and war weary Caesar is catapulted into action when The Colonel leads a raid on their hidden base which results in the death of Caesar’s wife and eldest son. What is best for his people is tossed aside in his thirst for vengeance and it’s during such heavy emotional moments that one must step back and be amazed at the performance by Andy Serkis and the animation wunderkinds at Weta, the CGI of the apes in the previous film was stellar but in this third chapter it’s simply jaw dropping.

Caesar isn’t alone on this mission of vengeance, though he wanted to be but his friends would not let him face death alone, so he is joined by the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), and fellow chimpanzees Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and Rocket (Terry Notary). On their quest to find the Colonel they end up adopting a young mute girl (Amiah Miller), after killing her guardian who in all fairness tried to shoot them first, and they also hook up with Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who once was an ape in the Sierra zoo and not one of Caesar’s people.  Bad Ape could lead Caesar to the location of The Colonel but he’s not too keen on bringing along a tiny human.

But not even a war hardened ape could turn away this girl.

The introduction of the girl and Bad Ape are two big leaps towards where the original Planet of the Apes started as her muteness is trait of all humans in the Charlton Heston film and Bad Ape shows that the virus that spread across the globe wiping out most of mankind has most likely affected apes everywhere, the same way it did Caesar’s apes. It is especially the former that has The Colonel all riled up as if the virus has mutated in such a way that it is robbing mankind of speech and its cognitive abilities then the end will definitely be nigh. It’s this kind of thing that adds a nice layer to the film’s primary villain for even though he is a right sadistic bastard he’s not all that wrong.

He also gets some interesting allies to fight this war.

Now I must mention that the ad campaign for this movie has really been selling it as a big summer action packed blockbuster but even though this film does have a fair amount action that’s not really what it’s all about as it deals more with the mindset of war and not the spectacle of it. I’m am actually amazed at the balls that Matt Reeves has to make a summer blockbuster that not only addresses such heavy subject matter found here but that also has most of its dialogue in subtitles as only a couple of the apes have developed speech yet. War for the Planet of the Apes is a character driven movie led by the amazing Andy Serkis and directed the shit out of by the wonderful Matt Reeves and I can’t recommend it enough, but do not go into the theater expecting to see an ape version of Saving Private Ryan.

This scene does not occur.

Final Thoughts:

• The naming of the mute girl is a great nod to the Linda Harrison character from the original.
• The wooden Xs that the apes are tied to is an obvious homage to the scarecrows that lined the edge of the Forbidden Zone in the original film.
• The apes hope to find a safe haven on the other side of a desert. Could this desert be the Forbidden Zone?
• Woody Harrelson does a really good Colonel Kurtz.
• That the Colonel upon capturing Caesar puts him to work with the other enslaved apes is idiotic, this would be like if the Romans didn’t crucify Spartacus but instead let him get back to fermenting rebellion.

Mike Brooks

Mike Brooks

Film grad who spends most his time trying to catch up on his "To Watch" pile of movies.