It’s been six years since “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” first introduced us to this new world of intelligent apes. What started out as an impressive display of motion capture acting and CGI artistry, has with each film further solidified itself as a classic franchise that pays homage to the original films, but also sets itself apart. In the third installment, “War of the Planet of the Apes” director Matt Reeves continues this streak of beautiful storytelling.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” picks up where 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” left off. Two species fighting for survival. One, hoping to reclaim the dominance that they fear they have lost. The other, fighting merely for the right to live in peace.
Caesar (Andy Serkis) has managed to keep his apes safe and hidden from the leader of the human armies, the Colonel (Woody Harrelson). His only goal in the war, to survive and perhaps one day coexist with the humans. However, after a betrayal leads to the deaths of many of his clan, he sends the survivors off in search of a new safe haven and sets off to get his revenge.
What follows tests Caesar’s character. He struggles with who he is, and his view of humanity. Since the first film we’ve seen Caesar grow from relying on humans, to seeing himself as equal, and in this final installment he begins to see that he and his followers have risen above humanity.
Given the events that take place, it’s hard not to agree with Caesar’s conclusion. Caesar and his soldiers show compassion to the humans while the Colonel not only slaughters apes, but also kills his own who he sees as a threat. The humans are fighting not only with the apes, but also a mutation of the disease that wiped out most of humanity. This latest strain robs them of their ability to speak. It’s a terrifying prospect, but the infighting amongst the communities of humans proves to be more dangerous.
“War of the Planet of the Apes” is a work of art. It elevates the genre of summer blockbusters to a level that most will never come close to. It combines gorgeous animation, with a story to match, and a combined caliber of acting that many an Oscar-nominated film would be envious of. While the majority of the lead roles in the film are apes, thanks to the abilities of these talented performers it’s impossible not to see their humanity.
Led by the pioneering Andy Serkis, who continues to lead the way in the field of motion capture acting. His complex and tortured performance as Caesar is subtle and complex all at the same time. He continues to prove that the perceived barriers presented by motion capture are just that, perceived.
I hesitate to call “War for the Planet of the Apes,” a perfect film, but it’s pretty darn close. It’s defied the third film trilogy odds, and neatly wrapped up this origin story. Its only true shortcoming is that some of us aren’t quite ready to say goodbye.
…just for fun: