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.
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).
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