War for the Planet of the Apes should be, as intended, the final chapter in the rebirth of the Planet of the Apes film franchise. If 20th Century Fox does in fact step away from the franchise with this 2017 entry, then they’re sending this captivating series off on a high note by saving the best of the lot for last.
2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes introduced a new generation of moviegoers to hyperintelligent apes, and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gave us a reason to root for apes to vanquish mankind. 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes is the perfect pay off, bringing the story to a close in a surprisingly poignant manner. Returning Dawn of the Planet of the Apes writer Mark Bomback and director Matt Reeves should be applauded for delivering a movie that satisfies Apes fans on multiple levels. There are incredible action scenes along with some humorous, light-hearted moments provided by the introduction of a new goofy, escaped zoo ape (Steve Zahn). But what War for the Planet of the Apes does best is focus almost entirely on Caesar’s group. Human characters come secondary to the rich, dynamic world of the apes that’s evolved over this new trilogy.
War for the Planet of the Apes begins with an intense fight between soldiers and apes. A combat unit finds themselves seriously outmanned and outmaneuvered when they enter the territory controlled by the apes. Caesar (Andy Serkis), believing he’s acting in the best interest of his family and followers, sends a few human survivors back to inform their leader that apes have no desire for war. Peace can exist between apes and humans, and Caesar’s group has no plans to enter cities or military facilities where humans reside.
Caesar’s group has created an idyllic hideaway behind a gorgeous waterfall. The lunatic in charge of the nearest human base, the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), isn’t open to negotiations and sends a team in to kill Caesar after the surviving soldiers return with the ape leader’s message of peace. In a horrific nighttime attack, the soldiers send the apes fleeing from their homes. Caesar’s hand has been forced and a pivotal war alters the course of mankind and apes.
War for the Planet of the Apes’ performance capture work is even more outstanding than in the previous Apes films. It’s time to recognize Andy Serkis, a master at bringing performance capture characters to life, with an Oscar nomination. His work as the conflicted Caesar is simply brilliant, and the artists who flawlessly transformed Serkis’ performance into Caesar’s should also be recognized come awards season. Caesar’s evolved into a complex, emotionally engaging character who’s just as human as those without fur.
An entertaining story, compelling characters, and fantastic effects combine to make War for the Planet of the Apes the best of the new generation of Apes movies.
Release Date: July 14, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
Running Time: 140 minutes