A Great Run and a Fitting Conclusion in the WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES Review
Director: Matt Reeves
Producers: Dylan Clark, Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, Peter Chermin
Screenplay: Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves
What a great run of films this trilogy has been, starting off on shaky ground and getting better with each successive film. Though I will always prefer the Rod Serling lead series of the sixties and seventies, these reboot films are more than worthy of their pedigree. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a good movie with fantastic supporting performances that failed due to an awful James Franco performance, like every performance he ever gave. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes fixes the problem by cutting off the poisonous branch and focused more on the wonderful character Andy Serkis created in Caesar the ape and his efforts to make peace with the increasingly hostile human remnants. The end of Dawn gave a lot of hope that Jason Clarkes character and the Apes may be able to live in some form of tenuous harmony.
There is a scene at the end of The Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973) when Lawgiver (John Huston) finishes telling a group of Ape and Human children the story of Caesar, and a human child asks him who knows the future, to which Lawgiver replies that only the dead know. The camera then pans to a statue of Caesar as a single bloody tear streaks down it’s face, signifying that for all the good Caesar tried to do, he knew that hate and the desire to subjugate and be superior to those different that poisoned both sides of the fight would perpetrate a cycle of violence and destruction destined to play itself out again and again for eternity. It’s a stunning lack of faith in humanity that I quite frankly admire. While War takes a different approach to it’s ending (I’m not revealing what) it does tap in to the darker aspects of the former series in some pretty interesting ways.
It’s been 15 years since the plague that nearly wiped out humanity and two years after Koba’s betrayal in Dawn, Caesar and his tribe are in a war with an army that came out of the north (it is hinted that Gary Oldman’s character was able to get a distress call out before his death), and in particular a Demagogue Colonel that wants to eradicate the apes without mercy. After an attack goes too far and hurts Caesar in a personal way, he sends his tribe towards a safe place and goes to take his revenge on The Colonel. Joining him are the philosopher orangutan Maurice, Chimpanzee lieutenant Rocket, and Gorilla guard Lucca. On the way he meets a kind orphaned human with something weird about her and Bad Ape, a chimp from the north driven mad with loneliness. I have to stop the synopsis here to keep the surprise, but suffice to say Caesar must find a way to save his people from captivity and wrestle with the part of him he considers to be Koba.
One thing I have to say is that this is not a war film, there are maybe two battles in the movie and one goes on mostly in the background. This is a prisoner of war film, and a very well done one at that. You can actually see exactly what scenes are inspired by A Bridge Over The River Kwai, The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now. Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel is almost a direct channeling of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz, and he’s fantastic at it. There is also a lot of Moses allegory in it too.
These three films are somewhat about building a different path toward the original Planet Of The Apes, and there is some good world building in this movie. My favorite is planting the seeds for why those creepy scarecrows mark the border to the forbidden zone in the future, because when it’s introduced, it’s horrifying. It also gives us the seeds for why human act the way they did in the original.
The acting in this movie is phenomenal, Woody Harrelson is disgusting as the Colonel, a truly irredeemable villain. If Andy Serkis is not nominated for an Oscar again for his voice and mocap work, there is something wrong with the Academy. Seriously, whether he’s speaking or communicating non-verbally, he is amazing. All of the ape actors are amazing, they don’t say much, but their communication in the motion capture work says it for them. There are some stunningly moving moments that take place in silence, in looks and motions.
What a great run of films, this year in film in particular is really strong as far as quality goes.
Matt Reeve bring a lot of good performances out of human and motion capture ape, bringing us some truly moving scenes with no dialogue. The special effects and 3D are top notch as well.
Well written and a fitting end to the journey started years ago.
Andy Serkis better be nominated for an Oscar this year. Even Steve Zahn is great.