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Geekscape Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Tuesday 27th June 2017 by AllieHanley
Assuming that you’ve seen the first two ‘Apes’ films, this review is SPOILER FREE for the third installment.
In a film landscape filled with remakes and sequels it’s interesting that a trilogy of films about apes somehow supersedes all of the super heroes, robot-machines and furious car films not only in special effects, but in sheer story-telling ability. This third film in the franchise from  writer director Matt Reeves (his second in the series) cements itself as easily the best of the three.

In this outing Caesar and his growing family have made lives for themselves in the forest. The renegade gorilla Kubo, from the second film who wanted to destroy humanity, is long gone. All is well until humans bring war to the group of apes who just want to survive and prosper in peace. Caesar walks a deadly line where he will either become like Kubo to save his family or face extinction. That moral dilemma of either becoming like your enemy or transcending to a higher place is part of what makes “Apes” tick.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” isn’t a perfect film but the flaws are few and in between. “Apes” once again stars the very impressive Andy Serkis as Caesar and a bunch of green dots that enable him to appear as an erect walking and talking chimpanzee. Weta Digital who helped develop the special effects has truly outdone themselves. Of course people generally don’t go to a film just to see the special effects but this film could make a case for exactly that. Skillfully, it doesn’t have too because the film delivers on much more than just how realistic the actors look as apes.

 The story takes place fifteen years after the second, and while apes can communicate using sign language, only a few have the ability to vocalize due to the mutation that took place in the first film. Because of this plot point, an actor’s ability to be able to emote through layers of prosthetics in previous films was challenging; And while the green screen and CGI motion capture was really good, it was still obvious. The textures just weren’t there and the characters sometimes looked like animation. With the advent of even better technology though, this barrier that prevents actors coming across as real and genuine has been broken. The blur between an actor playing an ape has transcended to one that looks totally believable. While this is not the end all, be all why this film succeeds it does add a lot to the over all experience and quality of the story and film.

Adding to the film’s positive landscape is another bold and dynamic soundtrack from Michael Giachina (Rogue One, Doctor Strange) who is innately aware that a large portion of the actors are using sign language to communicate. His music takes great care to evoke emotions alongside actors who don’t get to vocalize a lot of audible language. Giachina even includes a few riffs of the original “Planet of the Apes” theme if you listen for it.

Reeves and his crew do an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of oppressiveness where the apes live in a world of rainy, cloudy environments. The color palettes are dreary and are expertly designed around characters who won’t be vocalizing. The environment and staging of the scenes go a long ways in helping to tell this story and it’s an easy bet that some nominations will be coming down later this year for the design work done on this film (besides the technical aspects which will be easily nominated as well).

There’s always going to be praise for Andy Serkis because he’s just so damn good. I almost don’t want to write about it because everyone will report on just how great he is when it comes to these kinds of roles but honestly its all true and deservedly so. It’d be nice if the Academy Awards recognized his work this year outside of something technical, and just gave him a Best Actor Nomination already, and not one he has to share with the entire cast. Outside of the challenges of performing with all the head gear and green dots, etc required by the role, Serkis has this physical ability to evoke so much with just a look in his eyes. Without Serkis, “Apes” wouldn’t be where it is today, hands down. There are plenty of big films out there with humongous stars leading the way with bigger than life talent, but many of them are interchangeable. This is so not the case when it comes to the esthetic that Serkis brings to Caesar.

 

The film is not perfect. Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson, is given the task of militarily leading a group of humans against Apes. It’s not Harrelson giving a lousy performance, he’s great, it’s just that the character is too overtly contrived. Yes, you need motivation for why a character will do what they do (vague to maintain spoiler free), however his underlying need for revenge is just the same old expectation you see in every film the revolves around revenge. Since Caesar is also walking that line it would have been nice to have just a bit less of you killed so and so, so now I must kill you. With that said, the plot twist near the end made up for it, and I absolutely loved the way the story ended up fitting into the original 1968 “Planet of the Apes” narrative from writers including Mark Bomback.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” stands on it’s own, stands as part of a worthy trilogy, and stands inside of the Apes mythos while never feeling like it’s stretching to do that.

All three films combined can go up against any re-imagined and or rebooted franchise films in the past twenty years and be cited as the best. That’s something to be said but when you really get down to comparing it to franchise films that rely heavily on action and go weak on character development and or story, “Apes” never forgets character development. Explosions, dramatic deaths, visceral fight scenes mean nothing if you don’t care about the characters. Reeves keeps that tightly in focus as he weaves a tale about survival of the fittest. As spectacular as the special effects are in this film, they wouldn’t mean anything if the actors didn’t have a meaningful story to perform. “War for the Planet of the Apes” is easily the best of the three in an already stellar franchise.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5

Rating:
PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images)

 

  • Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama
  • Directed By: Matt Reeves
  • Written By: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
  • In Theaters: Jul 14, 2017 wide
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox

 

AllieHanley

Allie Hanley waves her Geek Flag proudly as she writes Film, TV, and Pop Cuture articles for several websites and a magazine. She occasionaly lands cool intervews with some of the Hollywood's most influential movers and shakers. Her favorite TV show is "Game Of Thrones" followed closely by "The Walking Dead." She has high hopes for HBO's "Westworld" and loves all things pop culture. Her favorite interview in recent times was with Gary Oldman. She attends Comic Con International every year and sometimes guest panels on smaller cons talking from topics like Women of Sci/fi, film, etc. Follow on Twitter @HallHHooker