A thrilling epic in 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

A thrilling epic in 'War for the Planet of the Apes'”

Finally, an exceptional blockbuster with heart and soul.


After the surprise success of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, I had my eyes on how they'd continue the franchise with DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Reeves stages some of the most nail-biting action sequences of the summer, from the laser-lit darkness of The Colonel's commando raid to the intense final showdown between Caesar's crew and the human forces. We also realize the humans' prejudice and vicious hatred of apes have ultimately reached an irreversible point with the threat of extinction. With the story moving from dank woodland to desolate beaches and on to rugged, snowy mountain regions, Michael Seresin's cinematography has a grand, epic sweep like something from a John Ford movie. Reeves took over the helm from Wyatt for the superior sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where Caesar led a rapidly evolving community of apes after a virus eliminated much of the world's human population; and War for the Planet of the Apes finds Caesar and his fellow apes at war with humans following the third act of Dawn - where a rogue chimpanzee, Koba (Toby Kebbell) started the war between the species. A group of human soldiers walk through the woods in search of Caesar (Andy Serkis).

"Well, what I would say is that it is-and recognize this is a little bit hedging-meant to complete this Caesar arc". We don't immediately see Caesar with a head-on shot. What's doubly remarkable is how easy it is to forget that we're even watching digital characters; the actors' performances and cutting-edge visual effects now mingle so seamlessly that Reeves' lens can stare deep into an ape's eyes and reveal the humanity eerily looking back out at us. Through all of that, it's been the astonishingly layered and nuanced performance of Serkis that has made it what it is. In War, that narrative is at times largely dialogue-free and uncompromisingly infused with a kind of sophisticated, freakish realism that is hard to put into words. Its forward momentum is unstoppable, gaining power as it develops into the best Apes movie yet, and one of the best movies of the year. If anything, there's probably less action than 2014's Dawn, and it's ultimately for the better. We know a big war is coming and there's nothing that can be done to avoid it. You might think you know where the finale is heading, but you definitely don't know how it's going to get there. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe of apes have been squaring off against the troops that were called in at the end of the last movie, led by a relentless, Kurtzian figure known The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The third part will be a lot more exciting as one anticipates Caeser's rise as a leader, an evolution of the apes that surely could lead to a gory war even within the clans.

The moral issues, and the arguable legitimacy of everyone's assorted causes, keep piling up, and one of the great merits of the screenplay by Mark Bomback, who co-wrote the previous entry and shares credit on this one with Reeves, is that it takes all the characters' views, grievances and aspirations seriously; although investment in Caesar's and the apes' cause is assumed and tacitly encouraged, the film doesn't insist that they are right and everyone else is intrinsically evil. With Caesar suffering (as Lincoln did) from a searing personal loss in the midst of a larger struggle, a dual journey begins, an inner one in which Caesar wrestles with his conscience over whether to seek violent revenge on humans for what they've done to him and his intimates, along with the physical challenge of finding his followers a new homeland. In a sense, it's about these two species pitted against each other and nature being greater than both of them. The apes fend off the attack, taking a few prisoners. It's not the kind that conforms to our on-paper ideals and banks on our environmental, "green guilt", so we can nod in agreement every time humans' arrogance, destructiveness, and greed are brought into questioning (which is almost every second of the film's well-earned 142-minute running time) and take some small comfort in knowing, "we aren't all that bad". The film does everything a great movie should do. Michael Giacchino's music is a textured mix of modern and classic; there are nods here and there to the score from the 1968 original - a further sign that history is drawing closer to the events of that movie. In War for the Planet of the Apes, we get to see a different side of this character we've now followed for three movies: the bad side.

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