War for the Planet of the Apes

Halt who goes there: Caesar is armed and dangerous
9/10 - Director Matt Reeves has delivered a blockbuster that’s sparing on the cliched action but packs an almighty emotional punch as we follow the journey of chimp leader Caesar.
Release Date: 
Friday, July 14, 2017
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The third instalment of hero Caesar’s epic battle to protect his simian family sees us rooting for the extinction of murderous mankind.


The third instalment in the Planet of the Apes franchise sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) taken on a journey, both physically and emotionally as he battles to avenge unimaginable losses after they come under attack from a battalion of humans.

Serkis returns as the charismatic ape leader, turned general, who is forced to fight against humankind to preserve his own. Woody Harrelson stars as his nemesis, Colonel McCullough, in a role inspired by Marlon Brando's Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. In an echo of Trumpian politics, the separatist military man wants to build a huge wall, though what the structure is designed to keep out isn’t initially clear.

War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar wrestling with his darker instincts for vengeance as he embarks on an epic quest in a bid to avenge his kind.

As the title suggests, it starts off as a war movie, complete with Vietnam-style jungle warfare, but it also takes inspiration from Hollywood’s favourite Western genre as Caesar and a small band of his trusted lieutenants including Orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) set off on a journey across hostile territory, which even pays homage to Spartacus.

Along the route, they take charge of a mute girl Nova (Amiah Miller) and Bad Ape, a chimp raised in captivity (Steve Zahn), who provides one of the few moments of light relief.

The level of realism in the special effects is so seamless, you soon forget that humans are involved in creating the chimp's lifelike performances, especially Serkis who has set the bar for motion capture acting performances, begging the question of why he hasn’t received an Oscar nomination, as yet.

What’s really impressive about the Matt Reeves-directed movie though (he also directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), is the emotional heart he manages to place at the centre of the story even with a character like McCullough. And despite its overly long 140-minute run time, in moments of little action, it’s the drama and Caesar’s internal emotional struggle that keeps you wholly engrossed.

But ultimately, it’s the ape leader’s journey and commanding presence that keeps you on the edge of your seat, rooting for him to triumph over mankind in an emotionally charged third act to this impressive re-imagining of the cult 1970s TV show.

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