The Planet of the Apes prequels, Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, are amongst some of the most surprising successes of the last decade. Now with the trilogy’s finale, War for the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves delivers another great film that satisfyingly rounds off the series.
The film continues to follow the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) as he and his followers struggle in a brutal war with humanity that has been raging since the end of the last film. When ‘The Colonel’ (Woody Harrelson) launches a devastating assault on the apes, Caesar sets out on his own quest for personal revenge. In a conflict that will decide the future of the planet, Caesar must face and conquer his inner demons if he is to ensure the survival of his species.
It almost goes without saying that War for the Planet of the Apes is jaw-dropping in terms of its special effects. With Rise’s CGI still holding up, even by today’s high standards, War’s is on a whole new level with Caesar and Maurice (Karin Konoval) in particular look incredibly realistic. The special effects team who worked on the movie must be highly commended for their excellent work. It’s movies like this that really push argument for CGI and motion capture to be more widely recognised in terms of awards.
Of course, the special effects mean nothing if the performances aren’t great and, as to be expected from the actor at this point, Andy Serkis is once again phenomenal as Caesar. With the ape leader now more human-like in character, Serkis is able to be more emotive in his dialogue whilst continuing to be incredibly expressive in his body language. Karin Konoval is also great again as Caesar’s closest friend Maurice who is as important as ever in being the voice of reason.
As good as the apes are though, the human characters prove to be quite disappointing. Woody Harrelson as the unnamed Colonel is quite one dimensional and feels like an unworthy adversary for the great character that is Caesar. This, unfortunately, remains the case even after his motives are explained. For his main function though, he does succeed at posing a real threat to the apes, as does his army whose particularly harsh actions later in the film leading to some distressing scenes.
The movie is by far the most ape focussed out of the trilogy, with Caesar being the central character from start to finish. This is a welcome change because, as good as the human characters were in previous films, the apes have always been the most interesting to watch. It is a testament to the three films as a whole that, by the time we get to War, it is no longer strange to have the entire movie be centred around advanced apes, with little need for human characters as support.
War is much more character focussed than some may expect with Caesar going through a clear arc. His struggle between his darker instincts makes for some interesting call-backs to previous films that show how the scars of his past are still effecting him. Arguably the counter to this is the character of Nova (Amiah Miler), a little girl who Caesar and his close followers look after for most of the film. Well played by the young Miller, Nova becomes instrumental later on and is the main source of the film’s more touching moments.
Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is a great end to an excellent trilogy. It’s seamless blend of CGI and live action is miles beyond other films around today. That and the exceptional acting talent it utilises makes the film a must-see this summer.
Verdict: A satisfying end to a great trilogy that is as thrilling in its story as it is stunning visually.
8 out of 10 cigars
War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves, is distributed in the UK By 20th Century Fox, certificate 12a