As Rise startled audiences with an unexpectedly successful franchise reboot, director Matt Reeves brought us Dawn, a continuation of super-intelligent ape Caesar as he continues to fight and protect alongside his fellow species as the human counterpart vows to rid the world of them. Both were immediate hits with audiences and critics alike as the technology arose to ultimately bring to life these apes in a tangible world within a franchise which previously was never explored to this much depth.
Reeves returns to culminate the franchise in War for the Planet of the Apes where we join Caesar and his allies as they remain in the woodland. Infiltrated and left devastated by a Colonel and his army, Caesar defies his identity and treks the Colonel down which inevitably leads him on a journey which alters the very existence of mankind and apes alike.
This isn’t Charlton Heston’s Planet of the Apes, nor Tim Burton’s Apes whilst we’re at it. Traditionally the franchise has been under the influence of glorified cheese, albeit guilty viewing. Reeves’ double-entendre of Apes, both Dawn and War, are undoubtedly smash-hit viewing, however. Though they may mask themselves as traditional summer blockbusters, these are so, so much more. As War proves in a cracking opening battle sequence where Apes protect themselves against the odds and an emotional thwack of narrative bulldozer twists our favourite central ape Caesar into mixed bag of hate and violence, this Planet of the Apes is the darkest, deepest most personal piece yet.
Andy Serkis’ depiction and CG-rendering of Caesar creates singularly the most affecting aspect of the Apes reboot; when action sequences fall second to a mere facial flicker to trigger such an emotional heft which undoubtedly carries this human strand through an absolute breakthrough and the form of this revolutionary technique in film that completely defies the use of actual physical bodies. Poor humans, right?
This character alone defies his psychological war amongst a physical one, raring with glorified set pieces from woodland to battlefield. A roaring, explosive, screen-dominating thrill with the added guffaw of Woody Harrelson’s Colonel battling his own inner demons which again ultimately places all the guns and napalm as a secondary figure to the human dynamics and overall emotional intelligence of the narrative.
Whilst Reeves’ engrossing narrative is enough to fulfil and fully round off an impressive and continually pleasing arc, an emotional heft and overall darkened demure somewhat bogs down a latter third, but it doesn’t falter the simmering tension between man and ape that proves as the most dynamic and seething battle of them all.
War of the Planet of the Apes is a fitting and profound finale to Caesar’s story. It may even be in that rare case where the credits roll on an enormously well made franchise that there might be a glimmer of personal intrigue to a further instalment. But then again, this doesn’t need tainted.
Director: Matt Reeves
Prd: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Music: Michael Giacchino
DOP: Michael Seresin
Runtime: 140 minutes