WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves
Featuring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adam Thwaite, Toby Kebbell
Caesar and the apes he leads live in the seclusion of a large forest but despite being away from the planet’s remaining humans they are forced into conflict with a remaining band of human special forces troops led by an obsessive and driven Colonel. After a deadly confrontation and even more deadly raid Caesar is thrown into direct confrontation with the Colonel. Does he help his band of apes escape away from all humans or can he resist the urge to seek out the Colonel and extract revenge?
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third in the series of ‘Ape’ movies that have all told lovingly and carefully paid homage to original 70s films whilst driving the story and settings in a different direction.
So often in the modern filmmaking world, reboots/remakes that claim to ‘pay homage’ to the original films they are based never live up to the originals. Now as a huge childhood fan of the original Planet of the Apes films (and the TV show) it is a great pleasure to see a set of film-makers and actors who clearly have a great respect for the source of their film.
The War for the Planet of Apes is clearly greatly updated in the storyline, realistic settings and unparalleled special effects and ape acting but if you look closely you can see the setups and references to those original films. In particular, I was delighted with the build-up and story behind ‘Nova’ the mute girl and how human’s became mute (or will). The makers really sat down went through the original stories and must have said let’s pad this out, give it a reason and not just say ‘because it is’.
It made me smile and still does thinking about it now. Someone thought long and hard about the backstory, cogs and wheels in the background.
The story itself is as old as the hills, revenge, pure and simple. What makes it better than most is the clear villain, Woody Harrelson, has a motive that makes sense and there is a reason for his specifically cruel and merciless actions. Most of us, but not all, would not agree with them but we do know why he does them and it’s not because he is ‘evil’. Yes, the makers do have a dig and modern society and the current world situation and why not? It’s a road that is clear for all to see.
The action sequences are as good as most serious war films and especially the opening assault puts me in mind of a few Vietnam films from over the years, both claustrophobic and then all-encompassing with some great sweeping camera shots.
It takes some great writing and motion-capture acting to make you close to tears over the deaths of CGI apes and laugh at the antics of Steve Zahn’s comic side-kick ‘Bad Ape’. In lesser hands it could have been awful but the motion-capture and Zahn’s comic chops had the role on the right side of the tracks. Needless to say, Andy Serkis is basically now a real talking ape because he has his role to the T so much you forget he’s an actor from London. He is helped no end with his supporting cast, particularly the other apes where facial and body language is the performance. That is not to cast the ‘humans’ into the shadows because overall I could not think of a character that jarred with me throughout the running time.
It was great to see that a film that uses ‘War’ in its title did not go down the explosions and non-stop gun battles that perhaps some would expect or even want it to be. There is a battle at the beginning and battle at the end but in between you get a drama with pathos, laughter, tears and peril. Pretty impressive I’d say.
Both the main character are neither black nor white, there is a moral to the story and real peril throughout with no character, favourite or otherwise, guaranteed to make it to the conclusion. The settings and locations are both magnificent, wild and natural. A world left alone.
If I have a quibble it would be the ending seemed rushed and slightly too neat, which is odd considering the film’s 140 minutes running time, I can’t actually say what happens without spoiling the film but considering the way the story was crafted as messy and difficult for all the characters, like real life, the ending was just too neat, too tied up in a bow but it’s a personal quibble really. Others will love the ending I’m sure.
Oh and I hated Woody Harrelson’s actor’s tool, the unnecessary sunglasses, used to take off and put on to emphasise points.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a very, very, good film, it sits comfortably with the first two films of the series, is a fine update on the original films and pays knowing, loving and carefully thought-out tribute and continuation of those 70s film storylines.
This is a great film and I look forward to the next in the series and I will love to see how the makers craft their story with the original series of films storyline.