Our Editor is quite rightly a huge fan of the rebooted Apes franchise. Unfortunately, as ever, he’s taken it to extremes and in a bid to secure a role in this third film he stripped himself naked, covered himself in wallpaper paste, rolled around on the local barbers floor and painted his backside red. It came as a surprise only to him that rather than being cast in the film he was, instead, sectioned.
Thankfully War for the Planet of the Apes is a much better sight to behold. Starting with jungle drums rumbling along the 20th Century Fox intro we stealthily follow a group of soldiers up a hill in their attempt to mount a surprise attack on an encampment of apes. It all goes bent of course as many of the apes are slaughtered. Worse for Caesar is the death of his partner but having been outspoken in his will to resist being drawn into a war with the humans he finally succumbs to a desire for revenge. As the apes flee their former home in the forest, Caesar, aided by three of his loyal aides he goes after Woody Harrelson’s Colonel, a shaven headed leader of a platoon determined to wipe out apes blaming them for the simian flu that has seemingly wiped out much of the human race.
With War in the title the film has drawn heavily on military films and right from the very beginning the film makes clear its war film influence with soldiers helmets scrawled with ‘Monkey Killer’ as they endeavour to track down Caesar. Director and writer Matt Reeves draws on one of cinema’s great war films, ‘Apocalypse Now’ with Harrelson character owing much to Brando’s Colonel Kurtz. The film is quite open about its influence even scrawling ‘Ape-pocalypse Now’ on a wall. Like the Sheen and Brando roles both Caesar and the Colonel in this third apes film are driven to the point of obsession regardless of the cost to themselves. Heavyweight in intent with huge moments of pathos unafraid to tackle complex emotions and unlike so many disappointing summer blockbusters this year this is a film that is confident enough to take its time. For a big budget summer studio movie this has some grim moments from crucified apes to chimp carnage this is solemn stuff and the levity of Steven Zahn’s Bad Ape doesn’t always lighten it.
But really this final film in the trilogy much like the previous two films is all about Caesar and its Andy Serkis who once again turns in a stunning performance through motion capture that surely must earn him some sort of recognition when awards season comes round. The technology improves with each film and is convincingly emotional and Reeves knows just how good it is and even indulges himself when he Harrelson tells Caesar, ‘Look at your eyes! Almost human’ which encapsulates just how far motion capture performance has come since Gollum. But the trilogy has given Casear a compelling character arc which we’ve not seen since Michael Corleone in The Godfather films.
It’s not a perfect film with some minor moments where coincidence and credibility are thin but this is a superior summer blockbuster of the highest order.
Here’s the trailer…….