Planet of the Apes, a series that has had ups and downs over the decades it’s been in existence. The recent remakes have breathed life into the series and delivered some fantastic films that scream science fiction as they explain the events leading to the “classic” story. After a grand slam, middle movie that started the war, the third installment promised to bring that battle to full swing (according to the trailers). Robbie K here with another review to fill the details and help guide your viewing choices. War…what is it good for? Let’s see if we can answer that question.
The Graphics: The new series forewent the costumes, makeup, and looks of the classic series and instead focused on CGI graphics to bring the apes to life. Once more, this series gets the animation perfect in all the high definition detail that modern technology brings. Andy Serkis (or Smeagle from LOTR for most of you) flexes his motion capture muscles in a stunning performance as Caesar the lead ape. The movements are fluid, the facial gestures on point, and despite being painted as a chimpanzee, manages to brilliantly bring out a human like protagonist you can’t help but love. When the more exciting moments are brought in, the border between reality (pyrotechnics) and virtual display is blurred even further in a balanced execution that keeps things in check. Overall, the visual presentation is stunning.
The Story: When you are doing prequels, it can be difficult to answer questions, but still craft an original story that is good (see the countless Star Wars prequel discussions). War for the Planet of the Apes manages to achieve this balance of answering questions, while still bringing a story of its own. This film manages to further develop Caesar’s life, while integrating key relationships that establish a firm foundation needed for these movies. Much of the film is packed with this deep dive into the character psyche, while trying to infuse tension and suspense at the fates of the other apes. A good story indeed.
The Emotion: And what makes the story so good, it’s the emotion captured in much of the scenes and sequences in the film. Caesar himself is a complicated mess of feelings, motivations, and morale decisions, which is all brought out in the motion capture animation of Serkis’ work. Watching his reactions, as well as the visualization of the war are brilliantly displayed with fantastic cinematography and supporting audio that maximizes the punches/kicks of the moment. Animal activists will get double the slaps, but such emotion kept me engaged in the movie and suspenseful as what would happen next. This may be the best component of the movie for me.
The Length: Another example of editing, War for the Planet of the Apes could have cut some time off the movie. This could have been achieved by shortening some of the suffering scenes, or dropping another sequence itself, though this might have weakened the story at points. For this reviewer, there were components that felt a little long winded and unnecessary, which kind of bored me give the title of the movie (more on this later).
The Torture: If seeing characters tortured is your idea of entertainment, then get stoked because this is your movie. War for the Planet of the Apes has many dark moments that show the horrors that war can truly be. The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is a stereotypical, military antagonist and this movie is not afraid to show off his cruelty in that overinflated manner Hollywood makes famous. Many scenes may be disturbing to those with sensitive constitutions or again animal activist passion. I found myself quite irritated, annoyed, and ticked off at times at seeing these scenes over and over again. While I admit a few of these scenes were needed, there is too much of a “good” thing that can lead to it being overdone.
The Lack of Action: For a movie called War for the Planet of the Apes, I was expecting more combat to be packed in. The trailers promised scenes of battle between man and ape, with military tactics going up against technologically advanced soldiers. Sadly, this was not the case as this film had only two battle sequences to throw some excitement into the mix. These scenes were cool, but a little anti-climactic and didn’t show the bravado I really wanted to see to deliver that exciting bang I craved. Sure, War is not just about the exciting battles made famous in cinema and video games, and this film shows another side to War. If that is going to be the case, don’t edit the trailers to promise that.
War for the Planet of the Apes might have been better named survival of the Planet of the Apes. While not the most exciting of the movies and a little darker in regards to portrayal of the Apes’ journey, it definitely has the emotional punch of the other installments. It’s a beautiful tale that brings the prequels to full closure, while still opening up another movie or two to continue bridging the gap between classic and new. I do agree that it is one of the better movies of the summer, still it needs a little tweaking in the editing and action department to bring it to full life. Worth a trip to the theater? The answer is yes!
Movie Overall: 8.0