“War for the Planet of the Apes” Review: Hail Caesar!

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Directed by Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Karin Konoval, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson

“War for the Planet of the Apes,” and its trilogy as a whole, is what happens when good ideas and ambition are given big Hollywood money.

The result is a blockbuster that feels like what more big budget films should strive to be like.

“War,” like its predecessors, is bold, deep, and inspirational and more than anything understands that with a bigger budget that doesn’t mean you need more explosions or ridiculous over the top action set pieces to dazzle the audience.

This is the kind of blockbuster I always hope I’m about to see when I go to the movies.


(Me trying to make it through the other end of the blockbuster spectrum this year…)

This series, from the beginning, trusted its story would be good enough to carry an audience’s attention without dangling pretty objects in front of their face (beautifully rendered CGI apes not withstanding) and “War” is a culmination of that trust and the scope of the creators’ vision and it amounts to easily the best film of the year.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” continues the saga of the ape leader known as Caesar who now fights a war for the survival against the humans who wish to wipe his people out. When tragedy strikes close to Caesar, he decides to take it upon himself to end the conflict for good by going after the Colonel of the human army. As Caesar begins this journey into darkness, however, he starts to wonder if he may be becoming more like his vanquished rival Koba and if so, does he deserve to live.

How many people by a show of hands wanted or cared for a “Planet of the Apes” prequel back in 2011 before it came out? How many thought back then this series would feel relevant in pop culture today in 2017?

The answer is no one and the way directors Matt Reeves (“War” and “Dawn”) and Rupert Wyatt (“Rise”) remarkably breathed life into this series is by trusting their story and not trying to cater to short attention spans.


(Seriously! They turned this goofy shit into a serious science fiction trilogy! Like how??)

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a marvelous conclusion to an epic trilogy complete with amazing visuals, deep-rooted drama, bold action, stunning cinematography all set to a beautiful musical score by Michael Gianchino.

“War” doesn’t simply give in to the need for epic trilogy action finales, however, it allows for subdued and often tender moments to occur throughout the movie.

We see these apes interact with the world around them, show love and compassion, and never does it feel corny or ham-fisted and in a story that features talking monkeys that’s damn impressive.

The CGI rendering feels as seamless as ever and rarely will your suspension of disbelief be lifted as you marvel at these jaw-droppingly realistic ape characters on screen.


(Seriously! Look at that! That’s fucking beautiful!)

Newcomer Steve Zahn, out of nowhere, lends his hand to the motion capture in the film by playing the film’s comic relief in “Bad Ape.” In a story as dour as this one, Zahn’s ability to sprinkle in humor through this character was a joy to watch and manages even to never break the underlying tension of the film. 

The character is goofy but he’s also genuine and it’s amazing that even in the third film this series manages to create something new that audiences can enjoy on a humorous level.


(Daaawww look at him in his cute little vest and flashlight :3…)

But what “War” is really about is culmination of Caesar’s saga through this trilogy and Serkis’s own growth as this great character.

In “Rise” Serkis is mostly just doing the amazing motion capture work of Caesar, from his humble beginnings as the world’s first smart ape but in “Dawn” we begin to see this character truly take a larger than life form and “War” brings this all together as Caesar becomes fully fleshed out.

Caesar is fierce yet also compassionate. Strong yet sensitive. Fearless yet burdened by the heavy crown he wears. Its interesting to say a motion captured character has tremendous screen presence but that’s exactly what Serkis’s Caesar does.

When he speaks, you listen. When he acts, you jump. It’s impossible to take your eyes off him in this movie and it’s not just because it’s arguably the most realistically CGI rendered character ever in live action but because his character simply commands so much attention.


(“Let my people go, Pharaoh! Wait, wrong movie…”)

Caesar is powerful in every way and seeing his growth from the first to the third film is simply amazing. In “War” we see Caesar at his lowest and how he fights out of it. How he perseveres through the events of this series and especially in this film simply makes him one of the best characters ever to grace not just science fiction but movies in general.

If Andy Serkis doesn’t get a nomination for his work in this role it would simply be a travesty. His work as Gollum in “Lord of the Rings” is iconic of course but arguably what he did in his portrayal of the evolution of this character is even more impressive. His ability to make Caesar, this CGI motion captured ape, feel authentic and real simply makes him more than deserving of an Oscar.


(“Tell me I don’t deserve an Oscar! I dare you! I fucking double dare you!”)

As mentioned, “War for the Planet of the Apes” and this series is what happens when rebooted blockbusters are given real care and ambition.

“Planet of the Apes” had no business getting rebooted and yet overcame unlikely odds to become not just a pop culturally relevant series today but one of the best franchises of the decade and this is all largely because the producers, directors and writers gave a shit.

If Hollywood would put in this same ambition, thought and care into the millions of dollars they pour into series such as the “Transformers” abominations they churn out every couple years, the conversation on tired reboots and sequels might be a little different today.

“War of the Planet of the Apes” and its series are what blockbusters should strive to be more like and it’s sad that other series aren’t given the same care and attention. 

Sure there are definitely some nit-picky flaws within this film and series but not enough to truly say anything bad about this movie.

So get on it, you damn dirty producers, pour a hundred plus million dollars into good ideas for a change.

General audiences are a little smarter than you give them credit for…only a little though…


5 out of 5


Now if I have your attention, Mr. Producer, I have this idea for a musical, you see…

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