Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson give striking performances as Matt Reeves yet again takes the helm in this superb third instalment of the thrilling The Planet of the Apes reboot.
Set two years after the events that unfolded in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for The Planet of the Apes opens with the humans (what is left of them, after the devastating virus continued to wreak havoc and extinguish the majority of mankind) at total war with the apes. In a bid to end the unjust bloodshed of his clan, Caesar (played with expressionistic aplomb by Serkis) - the apes’ magnanimous leader – wishes to send a declaration of peace to his rivals. Having learned his lesson the hard way of the pig-headedness of men, Caesar –along with a tight troupe of his most loyal simians - embarks on a deadly quest of retribution and vengeance.
Matt Reeves’ austere interpretation of a dystopian planet earth reminds us that the world as we know it has dramatically changed: gilet-clad chimpanzees are running amok, stealing from little girls – and a homicidal, xenophobic, authoritarian lunatic, hell-bent on constructing a wall, is now the self-proclaimed, feared leader of the Free World. Wait – has this been done before?
Certainly, War feels like a picture for the present. The Colonel (played with ferocity by an excellent Harrelson) can have many comparisons drawn out for uncanny similarities to a certain political figure, and he represents a familiar enemy. Much like its two predecessors, more specifically Dawn, Reeves deliberately focuses the bulk of the storyline on the apes themselves, casting Caesar and Co. as the heroes, leaving us writhing in anguish at the hatred of humankind. Steve Zhan's so-called 'Bad Ape' provides some much needed comic relief in another otherwise bleak but beautiful feature.
The visual effects in this film are truly stunning. You become so engrossed with the motion-capture CGI characters in this film, that all it takes is a few minutes for you to forget that you are indeed watching a film populated with talking apes. Reeves utilises this ground-breaking new technology often by incorporating regular close-ups of the animals’ faces, where we become instantly hypnotised by the actors’ untainted emotions – often overlooking altogether that they are CGI at all.
There isn’t as much conflict in this film as the title may suggest. Reeves isn’t concerned about manufacturing a movie filled to the brim with attention-grabbing battle scenes (although admittedly there are some fantastic ones), something that is all too frequent in epic blockbusters these days - in their place, refreshingly, is a poignant, enthralling narrative that mesmerises the viewer from the very beginning.
It is astonishing that this trilogy of films so far hasn’t received nearly as much praise as they so rightfully deserve. Each chapter - along with the apes they depict - has elegantly advanced into something that is really quite extraordinary. Rarely will a film with a budget of this calibre leave you feeling as astonished, heartbroken and overjoyed all at once. This isn’t just a summer blockbuster: this is something more than that.
Book your ticket to War For The Planet Of The Apes here.