It’s easy to go into WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES expecting a good solid film but nothing more. The first two in the current series are solid films with an emotional cord hit all the right beats rings in the tears but have stopped slightly short of epic. How much further could they go with this story? What happens next? WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is what happens next and it is a spectacle like nothing you’ve seen before.
We are introduced to a new band of soldiers who are on the hunt for Caesar and his hidden outpost. Among them are apes, called Donkeys, who operate as pack animals for the increasingly hateful humans of the series. Early on, they come across an outpost and light it up. A battle ensues are all humans are killed save for one, a gung-ho cause head called Preacher (Gabriel Chavarria).
Enter Caesar (Andy Serkis) to greet his son Blue Eyes, who is returning from a long recon. The boy has grown since the last movie and is a responsible member of the party. Caesar’s wife, Cornelia (Judy Greer) has given birth to their second child, Cornelius. All seems well in the camp, but it is not. Winter, a white ape, is charged with watching the donkey that aided in the attack. He returns, bloody, the donkey having escaped.
As you might imagine, the army is lead straight to them, headed by their leader, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). Caesar attacks but The Colonel escapes, but not without a few casualties. Enraged, Caesar sets out on a mission of vengeance against all mankind.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the Apocalypse Now of ape movies! It’s not simply an action film or a Sci-FI film. It’s something special. There is a lot of soul searching in this film. Caesar struggling with who he is as a leader and his own personal anger. Once again you will laugh and cry with the characters but there is something bigger at play, a broad story that is part biblical, part operatic and all engrossing on every level. This film is nothing short of spectacular and if there is one genre film that deserves a best picture nod this year, I tell you that this is it.
I don’t want to give anything away but we are introduced to a girl who is mute and is taken in by Maurice. She not only provides a deeper insight into our ape heroes but is the key to a major reveal. Nothing in this film is a throw away.
The performances are amazing with Andy Serkis once again owns the center stage with a performance that inspires compassion, respect and fear. As his foil, Woody Harrelson is a Colonel Kurtz by way of Natural Born Killers. When they meet in the third act, it’s a Michael Mann level powerhouse moment. With all of this, Steve Zahn manages to shine as Bad Ape, a tragic and funny ape that they find in their travels. His story,like Koba from DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES will put a tear in your eye and a hurting on your soul. Simply a perfect performance.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is a perfect film amongst a trio of perfect films and is greater that the sum of its parts. It will make you laugh, cry, and think of not only how you treat others, but yourself. It is an ending and a beginning for an incredible series that we never knew we needed until we did. Witness it.