WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES review by Rahul Vedantam – the franchise gets a fitting end

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES review by Rahul Vedantam – the franchise gets a fitting end

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WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the last piece in the contemporary PLANET OF THE APES trilogy which tell the story of the rise of Caesar the ape. The previous films, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES have set an incredibly high bar (especially the latter) for the triad. While the new film is superb on all technical levels, the story slightly falters the landing in an overall enjoyable film.

In the current iteration, Caesar, played by Andy Serkis through motion capture, is leading his clan of apes as they try to establish a home for themselves. While he wishes for peace, factions of humans rebel. One such group is led by The Colonel, played by a scenery-chewing Woody Harrelson. An attack by The Colonel onto the ape clan leads Caesar to seek revenge. In doing so, Caesar must question what he believes it means to be an ape vs human (or is there a difference?), how to be a leader of a burgeoning culture, and how to balance mercy and his desire to seek revenge.

It’s a testament director Matt Reeves and the screenplay, written by himself and Mark Bombeck, that an audience of humans starts rooting for the apes to win against humans within the first ten minutes of the film. There is a good balance of gravitas and levity, the latter mostly drawn from a great turn by Steven Zahn as Bad Ape. Furthermore, there are small, but important through lines of thematic elements that refer to the events that have or will occur in the other PLANET OF THE APES films; while these will go over the heads and may slightly confuse people who are newly stepping into this franchise with the WAR entry, these beats are woven well enough into the core story here that they don’t completely take the viewer out of the film.

To end this Caesar trilogy of PLANET OF THE APES films, Reeves and Bombeck have decided to take an introspective look into the iconic figure of the films. Serkis is up to the challenge. The team has done this character justice throughout these films. However, the exploration into the thematic elements felt a bit superficial, especially compared to thought-provoking previous films in the franchise. Furthermore, the film lacks the scale one might expect from the finale of a trilogy.

In terms of this being a summer blockbuster films, the story is thankfully brainier than the typical film. The additional component necessary these days are the effects. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is impeccably made in this sense. Reeves chooses to use numerous close-up shots of Caesar and Maurice (played by Karin Konoval). The effects job is so seamless that many moviegoers will simply be amazed, while the more critical are simply left wondering how much effort and time must have been spent giving these motion-captured performances such simian life.

All the supporting elements perfectly compliment the film. The score, by Michael Giacchino, perfectly accompanies the on-screen imagery and story moments by traversing the emotional spectrum between haunting and heroic. Additionally, the sound editing is incredible, with life-like ape sounds. Shot by Michael Seresin, the movie looks gorgeous in forest and war camp scenery.

Many audience members may go into this movie expecting more “world building” – more connective tissue explaining how this planet became the one seen in the iconic first “Planet of the Apes” film. Others may be expecting the film to be more action-oriented, as this if the installment in the franchise with the word “war” in the title. Instead, Reeves and Bombeck have decided to look at Caesar, the character they have used as a vessel to achieve those goals in previous films. While this exploration may not be a home-run, it is certainly an interesting choice that deserves to be applauded and watched.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES opens July 14, 2017

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