This past month, Hollywood has released several gems and War for the Planet of the Apes is absolutely one of them. Director Matt Reeves ties the knot with the best and final installment of the Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy. The title is a bit misleading, because despite a few scenes, there really isn’t a lot of war in the story. You can rest assured that you won’t be watching a two-hour bloodbath. Instead, you will be watching an enriched and poetic tale that tackles some of our most primitive emotions while also having great action set pieces sprinkled in. Also, will someone please get Andy Serkis a freaking Oscar nomination?
Andy Serkis = Caesar
Woody Harrelson = The Colonel
Karin Konoval = Maurice
Steve Zahn = Bad Ape
Amiah Miller = Nova
Ty Olsson = Red Donkey
I was serious when I said that Andy Serkis deserves a nomination from the Academy. He completely carried the film full of emotion, relatability, and charisma while also portraying a CGI ape. I can’t imagine what it takes to play such a character, but I was sincerely impressed with his performance. Caesar goes through a whole range of emotions in this film and I never doubted for a second that he was a real character.
In the opening, Caesar suffers loss. He is accustomed to it by now, because it is the third movie and by this point, he is getting older and a lot has happened. Although, I don’t think he has suffered loss like this before. What we understand about his character is, despite everything the humans have done to him and his species, he continues to be merciful. What we see early on is Caesar’s morality tested when he suffers great loss at the hand of the very people he has been showing mercy to. Throughout the story, we see him wrestle with his emotional pain meanwhile balancing revenge, justice, and mercy.
In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a deadly virus outbreak occurs that originated from the same pathogen which gave the apes their intelligence. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we see that the virus has been killing humans and it has spread like wildfire across the world. Now there are only pockets of humans that have survived in this post apocalyptic world. Also, Caesar’s community of intelligent apes are taking asylum in the deep woods trying to live in peace and harmony.
Fast forward several years and we learn quickly that the deadly human virus has mutated. It now leaves its victims sick, with a bloody nose, and in a mentally primitive state. The humans affected by this mutation have lost the ability to speak and their actions are compared to primates. The Colonel orders the kill of any human that shows sign of this mutated virus to prevent spreading. This stirs controversy for The Colonel because not only is he creating enemies with Caesar, he also has human enemies that don’t agree with his method of quarantine.
The story was easy to follow while complex at its core. I loved how I was rooting for the apes and the humans at parts. I was so torn about the protagonist and antagonist at times.
3. Character connection
I was deeply moved by many characters and their actions. Bad Ape stumbles upon Caesar and his gang and I instantly loved his character. Bad Ape was an absolute delight and he added so much joy and lightheartedness to the screen, especially when there was tension.
Maurice is the loyal, morally upright, and sensitive ape who questions Caesar’s improper motives at times. I loved how Maurice bonded with Nova, an infected human girl that they found along their journey. Nova has the mutated virus and cannot speak, but quickly joins their cause and connects with the apes.
I especially loved The Colonel and Red Donkey. I know they are bad guys, but they both have a relatability about them. Red Donkey was one of the apes that turned on Caesar in the second film, and he became a work horse for The Colonel and his army. We see him battle this inner turmoil of betraying his species while also doing what he can to survive. He does have a redemption moment which is poetic and beautiful. Likewise, The Colonel is clearly the antagonist, but he has understandable motives for being so bad. At times, his motives can seem justified, but he really was crazy. Woody Harrelson was the perfect man for the job.
I’m not giving too much away when I talk about this, because it is in the trailer, but The Colonel kills Caesar’s wife and son in the beginning of the movie. It was an incredibly intense and emotional moment; however, I just feel like they moved ahead too quickly. I understand that they were moving ahead with the revenge plot to kill The Colonel, never-the-less I would have appreciated a short funeral scene or something along those lines.
**End of Spoiler**
I had a great experience with War for the Planet of the Apes. I believe Rise, Dawn, and War can be placed in history among the greatest trilogies of all time. I’m not saying it’s the best, I’m just saying it can be in the discussion. My rating is a 8.5/10 and I certify you will be glad you went to see this.