by Nile Fortner
A few years ago, 20th Century Fox decided to do what a majority of movie production companies were doing and already invested in, dusting off old, famous properties, names, and recognition by doing prequels for the big-screen. I’ve always been a fan of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ films. Back in 2011, I was very surprised how much I enjoyed the prequel ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Even more unexpectedly, the sequel to the prequel, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, I absolutely loved, and consider it to be the best ‘Planet of the Apes’ film since the 1968 original classic. Now we have the third entry to the prequels, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’, and is officially a trilogy. The best trilogy we have gotten in years!
The film once again follows Caesar, played by Andy Serkis (The Prestige, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and his fellow apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans. The humans are led by a ruthless, cruel, and selfish colonel, played by Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, Now You See Me). Caesar just wants to have peace, and does not want to go to war with humans. However, the apes suffer unimaginable losses, and Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts, emotions, and begins his own path to avenge his apes. Eventually, Caesar sees what humans are doing to his kind, and learns more about humanities struggle to survive. Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.
The actors portraying these apes through their performance really captured the ape characters. Each movie has gotten better with the CGI, and how well these apes look. The apes feel so real, they’re full of life, and the eyes convey so much emotion. This is literally some of the best CGI I’ve seen in years. People talk about latest ‘The Jungle Book’ movie being the start off for CGI and motion captured animals. No offense, but I have to disagree. Look back at the ape prequels, and you see how within just a couple of years apart how much better and more real looking they got. The CGI is groundbreaking visual effects and the on-screen ape characters were amazing to see.
The movie, and trilogy doesn’t try to just simply recreate the old movies, they don’t say to you, “Hey, remember that from the original? Did you catch that Easter egg?” The movie decides to expand on the story, expand on the themes, and explore new ground in this world we all thought we knew so well. I really enjoyed how this whole movie series, especially this one tells a majority of it through the apes point of view. Even in the ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, it wasn’t James Franco’s (This is the End, Upcoming The Disaster Artist) story, it was about Caesar, and it still is. That is definitely one of my favorite aspects about this movie, and the trilogy is that we’ve grown with Caesar physically and emotionally. Since the first movie, and he was an orphaned baby, to now, an ape being a part of a revolt.
We also see Caesar’s character starting to change in this film. He simply has had enough of the war between apes and humanity. One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Maurice, Caesar’s Orangutan buddy tells Caesar, “you are starting to sound like Koba.” Caesar even has flashbacks and dream sequences, that make it seem like he is almost thinking to embrace the side of Koba that hated humans with a passion. I don’t like calling Koba a “villain”. However, much like Koba, Caesar now finds himself faced with the same sort of demons that drove Koba to his hatred.
This isn’t a spoiler, because it’s in the trailer, but Nova from the original movie is in this. The little girl you see in this film, in the trailers, and posters, that’s her. The movie also has little hints to the original series. But the movie doesn’t stop, and hits you hard with wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “Remember this!”.
A lot of big budget movies nowadays feel like they have to tell the audience, look how much money we have, look at all our special effects, and all the money we have for this big budget. This movie clearly had a lot of money put into it. On the other hand, the special effects feel secondary to the characters, and story. We still get plenty of thrills and action, but it’s the characters and plot that lead to the action. That way when the characters and story get to the action it makes sense, and it’s not just a messy random orgy of action on the screen.
Woody Harrelson’s character, simply known only as The Colonel, resembles Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now’. Although director Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Upcoming director for the next Batman film) is self-aware enough to have some fun; at one point, the camera holds on a patch of graffiti that reads “Ape-ocalypse Now.” I do feel like Harrelson’s bad guy comes across more power hungry than a character I could mentally understand. I understand his reasoning, however, I was sitting there like, “Okay, but you’re still an asshole, dude.”
Matt Reeves has been one of my favorite directors for years, and I’m finally glad he is getting the recognition he’s always deserved. Even though he didn’t direct Rise, each film in the prequel trilogy got better and better. I can’t wait for him to direct the next ‘Batman’ film for the DCEU. Reeves uses widescreen with some remarkable imagery, and cinematography. An epic feel with peaceful sights of environment, or apes horseback riding along a beach, the snow, or huge scenes of carnage as men battles ape.
Bad Ape, played by Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dallas Buyers Club), is an amazing addition to the cast. He is funny, and a unique figure who also has a tragic edge to him. This is probably the best performance by Zahn in his long career.
For me, this is definitely in the top prequels and trilogies of all time, and I absolutely love this trilogy from start to finish! We’ve grown with Cesar, each movie continues the story in the right direction, and each film got better. This movie is honestly one of the best I’ve seen in years! Right up there with ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy and the original ‘Star Wars’! Matt Reeves directing ‘The Batman’, movie is in good hands.
Throughout the film, the apes say to each other, “Apes together strong.” And, thanks to an advancing story, and characters, this third Apes film is the strongest yet in the prequel trilogy. I really do believe this is the best prequel of all time. I do believe that this is better than a majority of trilogies out there. I do believe this movie and the people behind it deserve all the love. I do believe this movie is one of the best movies in years.
I am giving War for the Planet of the Apes a 5 out of 5 Hairpieces!