War for the Planet of the Apes is an emotional series finale

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) – Film Review

War for the Planet of the Apes 2017 film poster

War for the Planet of the Apes 2017 film poster

It’s the beginning of the end of the story of the Planet of the Apes, where the remnants of humanity are preparing for a final battle which will involve Caesar’s tribe of apes who are trying to survive a spate of attacks by a group of paramilitary humans looking to wipe out the perceived threat from apes.

After a brief synopsis of the first two films, there is an intense opening period evocative of Vietnam fims – which ends with Caesar (Andy Serkis) suffering a very personal tragedy which clouds his judgement as he decides to seek revenge against the leader of the soldiers who have dogged the apes in their attempt to live in peace.

Woody Harrelson delivers a stark performance as a single minded Colonel in charge of those soldiers with some very extreme views and does a decent job with relatively limited screen time.

It’s all very Apocalypse Now – a point which is hammered home repeatedly throughout the film – as Caesar struggles with his responsibilities and starts to make some questionable decisions driven by emotion.

During Caesar’s journey for vengeance, we meet a young human girl – a war orphan – who proves to be both brave and kind, reminding him that not all humans are bad.

Steve Zahn is introduced as “Bad Ape” – a refugee from a different zoo who serves as both welcome comic relief, offering a different take on the Apes backstory, and the guide to take Caesar to towards the climactic finale of the series.

Amazing effects work gives Apes emotional heft

Praise must be given for the state of the art computer graphics and performance capture to render the apes which was done by Weta.

The work done to realise the humanity within the apes, especially with Caesar, is fantastic and director Matt Reeves ensures that we get plenty of time to consider the quality of the acting with long moody shots and tight crops on expressive faces.

The drama is enhanced by the excellent sound design that knows when silence does the job just as well as bombastic sound effects.

Michael Giacchino should also get specific praise for an incredible score that amplified the emotional moments throughout the story.

There’s always a final confrontation in these films, and this is no exception, with that moment coming in an interesting way despite being framed by a third act that sags a bit with plot holes in order to resolve the trilogy.

It’s just about emotionally consistent enough to get away with it and there’s enough nods to the original source material to suggest that another remake of the 1968 original with Charlton Heston is feasible.

I wasn’t so keen on the 2001 remake of The Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton, so I’d have to say this series doesn’t need a fourth instalment given the way the entire trilogy has played out though despite the seeds that have been planted throughout these films.

Matt Reeves has helmed the last two of the Apes films in this series and has been announced as the director of the standalone Batman movie which will star Ben Affleck with a promise to deliver a different take on the caped crusader than has been seen before.

On the evidence of his involvement in these films The Batman looks to be in safe hands.

War for the Planet of the Apes (12A; moderate violence, injury detail; 140 minutes)

Summary: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is an action sci-fi sequel in which the leader of the ape rebellion attempts to rescue his son from a labour camp

Rating: **** (An solid and entertaining third film to conclude series)