|Without giving much away, this poster for Matt Reeves' War for the Planet of the Apes indicates the seriousness that marks the film|
War for the Planet of the Apes is the 9th movie in the Apes franchise, following the 5 in the original series (1968-73), Tim Burton's unsuccessful reboot of the original film, Planet of the Apes (2001) and the two previous entries in the new 'trilogy', (which may not be a trilogy because more chapters could manifest depending on the performance of War), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It is written by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard (2007)) and New-Yorker master co-writer-director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield (2008)), who also directed the previous film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
When ape leader Caesar's wife and oldest son are killed by the evil human colonel and his forces, he leaves his group on a quest for revenge that takes huge tolls and teaches him more about himself and the colonel.
It seems unlikely that War is as good as it is. Following the somewhat disappointing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I missed Dawn and have still to watch it. War for the Planet of the Apes is the only Apes sequel or reboot to reach the height of the very first film, which broke new ground for science fiction in terms of scope and technical elements (effects, costumes, makeup and prosthetics) and showed its possibilities with a thought-provoking - and much copied - story of humans, exploration and apes with deeper, underlying, very timely themes of racism, segregation, democracy, science, religion and doom.
In War for the Planet of the Apes, we meet a perverted, militarized, fascism-resembling army gathered around a colonel who has sacrificed his own humanity in a quest to save the human species. - The type of wrong decision that makes a leader dangerous. Elements of the story are as universal as they are thematically timeless: War and destruction; fight for survival against the stranger, the other kind or race and its progeny vs. peaceful co-existence and a respect for earth and the universe and the sufferings and losses of others.
The powerful narrative is told in a cinematography (by Michael Seresin (Foxes (1980))) with a delicious kind of texture and depth to it, combined with a sound universe and with a great, grand score (by Michael Giacchino (Star Trek Into Darkness (2013))) that seem to have a direct line to the original classic film. War doesn't have a single showy camera tracking or an unnecessary cut; it is fixed, most of the time, on the faces of the apes and humans involved in the scene, and its relaxed pace feels assured in the strength of these faces, lines spoken and the underlying narrative. There is something a bit old-fashioned about this, but in the best way possible: It takes its time to tell its compelling story in its own pace, and again and again scenes astonish and show real depth that would have been lost with any other, faster, flashier, more 'current' approach.
Of course a primary part of the spectacle that this huge film also contains lies in these very faces, especially in the faces of the apes, which in War seem to have more humanity and relatable emotion to them than the faces of the humans, who are for the most part unwise brutes. It is impossible to overstate the brilliance of the visual effects accomplishments in War for the Planet of the Apes, especially in creating the faces of the ape characters, which are modeled using acting performances from a talented cast. It is inevitably impossible to ascertain for an outsider, just how much of the greatly affecting performance onscreen is thanks to the actor involved and how much to the team of visual effects wizards who crafted the ape, but Andy Serkis (Wild Bill (2011)), who has made it into his personal specialty to give life to later animated characters in this way, (he was Gollum, King Kong and Captain Haddock, among others), is certainly deeply felt in his truly great lead performance as Caesar, a portrayal that is as dramatic as they come, simply, and deserves great recognition. The other ape performances that go over and beyond what I have ever seen before and truly touch audiences include Steve Zahn (A Perfect Getaway (2009)) as Bad Ape, Judy Greer (Californication (2007-12)) as Cornelia and Karin Konoval (The Quality of Life (2008), TV movie) as Maurice. War also has a terrific child performance from Amiah Miller (Lights Out (2016)) as Nova and Woody Harrelson (Play It to the Bone (1999)) a magnetic lump of muscle and mean determination as the Colonel.
For those familiar with the original film, War ties neat strings that lead up to the universe that meets Charlton Heston's astronaut Taylor in the first film, which must be some 20-25 years after the events of this film.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a rare science-fiction film that is both compelling, breathtaking, deeply moving and meaningful. Furthermore, you are guaranteed to regret it, if you miss seeing this in a cinema, so make sure that you don't!
The Apes franchise: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) or, Ape 3.1: Mad Apes!
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) or, The Final Ape!
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) or, The Ape Uprising
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) - The enjoyable if farfetched second Apes sequel
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - Decent follow-up to the SF milestone
Matt Reeves: Cloverfield (2008) or, It Tore Her Head Off!
Watch a trailer for the film here
Cost: 150 mil. $
Box office: 186.4 mil. $ and counting
= Too early to say
[War for the Planet of the Apes premiered 11 July (UK and Ireland) and runs 140 minutes. Bomback and Reeves were given a longer period to write the script for War than they had been given for Dawn, and they saw and were inspired by countless classic movies, including all the Apes films, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Great Escape, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Apocalypse Now and others. Shooting took place in British Columbia, Canada, including Vancouver, from October 2015 - March 2016. The film opened #1 to a 56.2 mil. $ first weekend in North America, significantly lower than Dawn's 72.6 mil. $ debut, and took a sharp 62.9 % drop in its second week, dropping to #4. The film has yet to open in several major markets, including Germany, France, Japan and South Korea, but it has not gotten a Chinese release, a major problem for such an expensive film, which is suffering an underwhelming performance in North America. Reeves and Bomback are already booked to write and direct The Batman, starring Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons and Joe Manganiello, which should shoot in spring 2018. War for the Planet of the Apes is certified fresh at 94 % with an 8.1/10 critical average at Rotten Tomatoes.]
What do you think of War for the Planet of the Apes?