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[Movie Review] War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

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Plot Summary: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

Director: Matt Reeves

Writer: Mark Bomback

Runtime: 2h 22min

Main Cast:
  • Andy Serkis as Caesar
  • Judy Greer as Cornelia
  • Woody Harrelson as Colonel
  • Steve Zahn as Bad Ape
  • Amiah Miller as Nova
  • Max Lloyd-Jones as Blue Eyes
  • Terry Notary as Rocket

Review: by Leanne

After the two major successes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it only seemed to follow that War for the Planet of the Apes would also be a hit.  So, despite the fact that no one could go with me, I took to the theater alone to see for myself. Although I'm not sure it was worth the traffic of leaving Washington D.C. during rush hour traffic, the film itself did not disappoint.

War for the Planet of the Apes finds both apes and humans embroiled in a battle of guerilla warfare deep in the forest.  Casualties on both sides mount as the humans seek to find the apes’ hidden base of operations to wipe out their potential threat.  The apes’ leader, Caesar (Serkis) shows mercy to human captives by sending them, alive, back to their colonel (Harrelson) with a message of peace.  Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes (Lloyd-Jones), and Rocket (Notary) return to the apes with great news and a hope for a safe place for apes to live; however, the apes suffer a traumatic loss when Caesar’s gesture of peace is rejected, prompting him to seek revenge.  Soon, the apes find themselves in grave danger on the front lines of a war that could decide the fate of the world for both apes and humans alike.  With the help of a new ally, Bad Ape (Zahn), the apes must fight to survive or risk being completely destroyed.

What I Liked:

I thought I knew exactly what to expect from War for the Planet of the Apes, but I was quite pleasantly surprised.  It was not a traditional war movie, in my books.  Without giving too much away, I want to point out that the titular war was not what would seem to be implied, and the apes’ involvement was rather unexpected.

That being said, I loved Caesar.  This installment of the franchise saw him once more as a very complex, dynamic character.  His development over the course of the movies has been extremely well-crafted, and Andy Serkis did another amazing job in his portrayal.

Caesar aside, many other characters definitely had their moments to shine.  Maurice, one of my favorite characters in the series was at the forefront of the movie and Karin Kanoval continued to give a stellar performance.  Bad Ape was a fantastic addition to the franchise, giving not only a new perspective on the world events but also providing some much needed comic relief.  He received almost all of the laughs throughout the movie, lightening an otherwise very heavy film.  Finally, something needs to be said for Woody Harrelson.  That man’s portrayal of the colonel was downright disturbing, in a good way.

I enjoyed that the film took on some pretty serious issues, portraying the humiliation and degradation of the apes held captive by the humans in a striking way.  The use of the slur, donkey, to describe the apes working with the humans was creative and left a remarkable effect on me.  That, coupled with the treatment of the apes being used as slaves, felt realistic and genuinely cruel.  It was well-done on the writers’ part.

In fact, the writing just generally good, as were the special effects, CGI, sound editing, etc.  Those were all to be expected though from a successful, big-budget film franchise.

Oh, and the kid was cute.  I didn’t think I’d like her at first, but she definitely grew on me.

What I Didn’t Like:

There wasn’t much to dislike about the movie if I’m being honest.  The CGI was a little distracting at first, not because it was bad but because I was fixated on it.  I was fascinated by the way the apes moved.

If you haven’t seen the other movies recently, however, you may want to refresh your memory because War for the Planet of the Apes does not help you out very efficiently.  You’ll go long moments wondering what an ape’s name is before someone finally gives it.  I don’t actually recall Blue Eyes being mentioned by name at all, which was pretty confusing because, at the risk of sounding specist, all of the apes looked alike, and I literally just had to look it all up to clear up Rocket and Caesar’s relationship.  The movie kind of assumes that you remember all of this from the previous films.  If you can’t seem to find the time to re-watch Rise and Dawn, however, don’t worry.  It’s not strictly necessary to enjoy yourself.

Other than that, my only gripe is personal.  Harrelson makes a comparison between himself and God, which I always hate.  His character is portrayed as being religious.  Seeing as he is a crazy person and the villain of the story, I don’t take well to the implications of his supposed Christianity.  It fits with society’s portrayal of Christians as insane zealots, however, so it isn’t exactly out of the ordinary.

Images Courtesy of IMDB

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