We've witnessed the Rise, and experienced the Dawn, now, it's War. The new Planet of the Apes trilogy ends on a triumphant and satisfying note with it's War for the Planet of the Apes.
Caesar Reigns Supreme
While the other films were more so split between man and ape storylines, this film is all about Caesar and the apes. That's not to say we didn't learn enough about where each side is coming from in thought and action after all, one of the great things about this trilogy is how we struggle to sympathize and root for just one side. Caesar has center stage here though and this film is a brilliant study and exploration of his character. We've been watching him since he was just that cute little baby monkey found in the lab. We now see a battle torn, tried-and-true leader in him, and we whole heartedly root for his success (even if it means the end of our own species...). Caesar has gone through many difficult situations and made many controversial choices among his peers, and we see the consequences of this here in brilliant fashion.
Caesar goes through one of his most difficult trails in this film and starts to veer into the darker self he fears he one day would become. Andy Serkis sells this character SO incredibly well. The man is honestly one of the finest actors working today, and yet we rarely see his face. I was really quite disappointed that he didn't receive any nods from the Golden Globes or Oscars for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because he was remarkable in that film. Well, I can say that I will be even more upset if he doesn't get any consideration this year, because he is just as good, if not even better, in this film. The amount of emotion he produced through all that here is astounding. It's time the Academy recognizes that Andy is acting at the same caliber as all the other A-listers, even if he's doing it in a green leotard and dots all over his face.
These Have to be Real Apes, Right?
Speaking of the Oscars, I'm calling it now, this movie has a lock on the special effects category. This is without question the best CGI I have EVER seen. I thought that Dawn set the bar high, but the effects in this film make even that look like child's play. They legitimately look like real apes. I cannot praise the team that worked on this movie enough, because what they've done here is absolutely masterful and has set at new standard for visual effects.
While the apes may look strikingly real, it's their actions that also really sell it. Their every movement and ape-like idiosyncrasy make you really believe in them as actual apes, and in turn help the story feel that much more real. As I've mentioned before, this installment is very ape-centric. We now lean in their favor in the war against humanity, and we side with them more an more as the series progresses and I don't think thats a coincidence. Sure the story definitely has a part to play in that, but the better the mo-cap technology gets the more expressive the apes become, which ironically enough makes us attach to them at an almost human level.
There's Not Much War in Wa
This may just be an expectation that I brought into the film from the trailers, but when you have film titled War for the Planet of the Apes you'd expect there to be a lot more...well, war. Don't get me wrong, the battle scenes in this film are very well done, and they service the film quite well, but I was just expecting more. We do end up getting a big "battle" sequence in the end, but nothing outside of the first scene ever really feels like war. I believe this really just comes down to how the film was marketed and doesn't affect the overall quality of the film, but there is a small element of disappointment that looms over this film for me because of that.
I love the first two installments of this trilogy, and I knew that I was going to see this one, so in hindsight I actually wish I hadn't watch any of the trailers. It's not that they aren't great trailers (which they very much are) or that they gave to much away. It's that they give the wrong impression of what the film actually was, which is never a good thing.
A Slower Film than Expect
Look, the first act of this film is masterful and met every previously mentioned expectation that I had going into this movie and more, but those expectations actaully ended up hurting a good portion of the movie for me. It probably didn't help that the first act was so incredible, but the film really slows down for the entirety of the second act. Again, this doesn't hurt the overall quality of the film since we get to explore a lot more of Caesar and the situation the apes are in, but it just wasn't what I thought I'd get from this movie.
I struggle to even list these two "negatives" as negatives because they're not a reflection of how enjoyable and impressive it actually is, but I have to mention them because they did affect my experience. The film definitely warrants a second viewing with all expectations checked at the door.
- This is the best performance of Andy Serkis's career, and that's coming from a massive Lord of the Rings fan.
- The entire cast of this film does an excellent job performing under the cover of CGI. The effects team may be the true stars here, but the performers are the ones that made you believe they were real.
- This is the type of role I like to see Woody Harrelson in. The guy is a very funny actor, but man can he be an intimidating villain!
- Steve Zahn actually does an awesome job in his apes debut as "bad ape" and added a comedic, yet tragic element to the movie.
- Matt Reeves knocked it out of the park here with this final installment. He shows an exceptional prowess of camera work that really elevates the movie to something great.
- I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to film much of this film with it being so effect heavy, but he doesn't slip up here one bit.
- This is definitely one of the most captivating films of the year.
- There is one scene in the third act that seemed a little out of place tonally. While the rest of the film is fairly serious (which I really like), this scene turned to a more comedic/playful route that just didn't seem to match the same tone. This is a little disappointed since the scene could've been a real nail-biter!
- What more can be said about he visual effects here? This is easily the best CGI I have ever seen and it will be the biggest upset of the year if this does not win an Oscar.
- Set pieces again look fantastic and immerse you in this post apocalyptic world.
- The cinematography is very impressive. There were shots that literally gave me goosebumps.
- Caesar's story has never been stronger and more compelling than it is here.
- Outside of one scene, there really isn't a hair out of place here. Everything is purposeful and useful to the story.
- This may be my favorite score that Michael Giacchino has done since UP.
- There are some very powerful and suspenseful scenes that are taken to the next level with this score.
- You can definitely hear the influences of the past Apes films here but with a newer, more grandiose scope, and it works beautifully.
- The first act is absolutely breathtaking and a ton of fun to watch.
- The film slows down a little bit but maintains a spellbinding narrative that keeps you glued to the screen for the entire runtime.
- Still a mildly disappointed with the amount of action present and where the film went, but this is more how the film was marketed than anything.
Total Score: 27/30
Final Score: 9 / 10
This is a brilliant end to one of the best trilogies in recent years. I highly recommend a second viewing if you left a little disappointed, but seriously, this is very entertaining film and a magnificent technical achievement that will leave you questioning how the hell they got real apes to act in a movie. Let me know what you think!