The end of the trilogy beginning with "Dawn", then "Rise" and now "War for the Planet of the Apes" marks a phenomenal feat for director/writer Matt Reeves and his co-writer Mark Bomback. This journey has seen a remarkable advancement in performance capture action culminating in this fantastic epic about Caesar (Andy Serkis), the part human/part ape leader of the apes, and Colonel J. Wesley McCullough (Woody Harrelson) as they battle for the planet.
As "War for the Planet of the Apes" begins, it has been two years since Caesar killed his best friend Koba, an act which still haunts the conflicted leader. And now the apes are besieged once again by the humans --- a small band of renegade special forces led by McCullough, who is obsessed with finding Caesar and killing him, along with every ape on the planet.
Caesar is even more human-like than before. He stands more upright as he concentrates on protecting his new breed of primates. But after he personally suffers a terrible loss, he begins to understand Koba's hatred of the humans.
He sets out with his most trusted friends and advisors, Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) to exact revenge upon McCullough. En route to the military base, the group encounters a mute girl, Nova (Amiah Miller) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), a lonely chimp who is not thrilled with the idea of guiding Caesar to his destination. And what they find upon their arrival shocks this tiny group to its core. The battle for the planet has begun.
If you enjoyed the first two segments of this trilogy, you will be even more amazed by "War for the Planet of the Apes. The visual effects from Weta Digital are extraordinary. The opening clash between apes and humans in Muir Woods defies technology --- it's almost unbelievable in its realism. The entire film is utterly engrossing, with an act of Mother Nature at the end which is movie memorable.
Serkis has developed Caesar into a film icon. His ability to express the deepest emotions with little or no dialogue is unparalleled. Caesar's conflicted feelings jettison Serkis' performance into another stratosphere. He is particularly moving in Caesar's final confrontation with McCullough. Harrelson is as "bad" as he's ever been. Physically he's in top shape, and though he presents a thoroughly tough demeanor, Harrelson doesn't take it a step too far.
The character of Bad Ape provides much of the levity and humor, courtesy of Zahn. He's a terrific addition to this last part of the story, as well as Miller. She may not talk, but her eyes speak volumes. She's a gorgeous child with an innate knack for acting. Watch for
her --- she will be a star.
"War for the Planet of the Apes" is one of those movies which must be seen on the big screen. Fans of the first two will flock to see this, but it is not necessary to have seen them. "War for the Planet of the Apes" stands on its own --- it is the summer blockbuster!
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
David: Actor Andy Serkis has become synonymous with performance capture in films, and when his name was shown in the opening credits at our screening, the audience responded as if he was an A-list celebrity. And to many moviegoers he is.
In this third and best installment of the "Planet of the Apes" series, Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, the undisputed leader of the apes. He is, of course, remarkable in his mannerisms and speech, but Caesar also has a lot of company in this film.
Aside from the superior visual effects, the biggest reason why "War for the Planet of the Apes" is the best in the series is because we see the truly "human' side of the apes, particularly from Maurice, the orangutan (Karin Konoval), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), a big galoot simian devoted to Caesar. Luca takes under his wing a young orphan girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), one of two new characters introduced by writer/director Matt Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
The other new entry to the franchise is a gentle, soft-spoken chimp named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) which audiences will fall in love with, and rightly so. He infuses the film with much needed humor.
Special effects involving an avalanche, air-to-ground helicopter missiles. anti-helicopter missiles, and a dramatic tunnel dash, worthy of the Steve McQueen classic "The Great Escape", are all spectacular. A good portion of the movie is either non-dialogue, or sub-titled when the non-speaking apes express themselves to Caesar through sign language. A simple gesture in ape terms can translate to a complex thought --- a bit of a stretch, perhaps --- but very effective.
Woody Harrelson plays the only relevant human in the story, Colonel McCullough, whose hatred of the apes is revealed in his lengthy monologue about the death of his son. His confrontation with Caesar yields one of the key lines in the script, courtesy of Caesar: "Koba couldn't lose his hate, neither can I lose mine".
"War for the Planet of the Apes" is easily one of the year's best films. It's possible some jaded moviegoers may pass on this follow-up to the previous efforts --- that would be a mistake. They would be missing out on a truly exciting and superior cinematic adventure.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!