Review: War for the Planet of the Apes — Emotional closure without an actual “war”

caesar family war planet apes 3 still

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Movie review

War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment in the Planet of the Apes reboot with the return of director Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield) and co-writer Mark Bomback (The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Wolverine) who did the previous film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
(2014). Reeves is also the co-writer this time. The story takes place a couple of years after the events in Dawn where the war between the apes and humans have been ongoing. Caesar (Andy Serkis), his family and the entire tribe of apes seek to find a place where they could go away and never be found by humans but he is hunted by an army led by the mad Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who wants to keep human race the superior species.

The title and its promotional visuals are quite misleading — we don’t really get to see a full, all-out “war” between the army of apes and humans. Actually, it also feels that Dawn had way more action than this sequel. And it has that one, same idea as Dawn and the first instalment Rise of the Planet of the Apes — planting one nice human character in the middle to imply that hey, not all of us are evil. However, the film is effectively poignant with a sense of closure to the trilogy. While this sequel continues to explore themes of humanity like its predecessors, it also takes a dive into the subject of personal agenda versus the greater good.

nova war planet apes 3 still

Reprising his role as Caesar, Andy Serkis (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Lord of the Ring/The Hobbit films) gave yet another outstanding motion-capture performance bringing the intelligent, genetically enhanced chimpanzee to life with strong emotional expressions and convincing monkey-like movements. All the actors who played the other ape roles are fantastic as well. The CG effects are just as convincing as the previous films, if not better. Child actress Amiah Miller (Lights Out) is the other star of the show who provides the heart-melting innocent charm that’s necessary for the story.

Similar praises cannot be sung for Woody Harrelson’s (The Edge of Seventeen, The Hunger Games films) portrayal as the Colonel, who seems just like a typical antagonist who wears shades in dark places and casually shaves his head in front of his army. He’s pretty much like the forgettable Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) in Dawn and no where near as interesting and impactful as Koba (Toby Kebbell). I didn’t think the film needed a main human villain. What it needed was a large army of remaining human survivors united for a final confrontation against the apes but sadly, we don’t get to see that. Missed opportunity or lack of resources, I wonder.

The film has a rather unsatisfying ending that feels rushed to give the war saga a closure. However, despite all the disappointments, it is still a good sequel. I was thoroughly engaged (and rooting against my own species) even though I knew what was going to happen to the apes in the end. And it does link quite well to the original film except for the character Nova. This leaves room for future sequels to further connect the dots without remaking the original.

war planet apes 3 meme

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What I would’ve named the film: “Avalanche for the Planet of the Apes”

Malaysian censorship: I don’t recall any strong profanities and most of the violence shown are on CG apes so I doubt there was anything to cut.

Verdict: Not the best film in the series and not even much of a “war” per se but it’s still a good sequel. The trilogy, as a whole, is the best franchise reboot in recent years.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

war planet apes 3 malaysia posterBased on: 1968 film and 1963 novel “Planet of the Apes”

Genre: Science fiction, action drama
Running Time: 143 minutes
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves, Mark Bomback
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Steve Zahn, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Karin Konoval

Malaysia Release Date: 13 July 2017
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Chernin Entertainment

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