#REVIEW: “WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
As War for the Planet of the Apes opens, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still showing mercy to those who wish to eradicate his people. This mercy naturally comes back to bite him when the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his troops infiltrate the Apes’ village and kill Caesar’s wife and son. The Ape leader quickly trades his pacifist beliefs for vengeance upon the humans and, accompanied by his closest advisors, looks to end the war Koba began in Dawn.
At its heart, War for the Planet of the Apes is a story about the dark, unfulfilling road of vengeance: Caesar is fighting for the survival of his people while the Colonel wants to eradicate the Apes before they destroy the human race through the newly mutated Simian Flu. Both fight for the memories of their loved ones but it is the Colonel’s fanatical god complex that marks his psychopathy.
When the best performance in a movie comes from a motion capture ape you can either look at the human cast or simply accept that few people turn out performances as nuanced as Andy Serkis. By contrast, Harrelson’s one-dimensional Colonel is great for exposition, but adds little flavor to his role of charismatic leader. The supporting cast does its best to keep up with Serkis with mixed results. Karin Konoval’s Maurice is a standout as always but not all mo-cap Apes are created equal. Case in point, Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape seems to be an excuse for comedic relief but proves to be merely annoying only minutes after his introduction.
With few Apes able to speak verbally, much of the story is moved along through subtitled sign language and the expressive faces of the Apes. In fact, for a movie with the word “war” in the title, there are few big battle scenes but rather than detracting from the overall Movie, the inevitable final battle becomes more satisfying thanks to the layered storytelling.
The large set pieces for War are outstanding. From the Ape’s forest home nestled within a waterfall to the immense military base no detail was considered too trivial. It is at the latter that the blatant allegories to both slavery and the Holocaust come into clearest focus. From collaborator “Donkeys” to the tunnels found beneath the former munitions depot, Director and Co-Writer Matt Reeves leaves no doubt that unlike in previous Ape movies, humans have become irredeemable.
War serves not only as a sequel to Dawn and Rise but also as a direct prequel to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes. While there is arguable room for one or more movies, the franchise would be well served to end on this triumphant note. In a movie season that has critics throwing around the term “franchise fatigue,” War for the Planet of the Apes is that rare perfect coda to a well-paced series.
20th Century Fox Films Canada realease War for the Planet of the Apes on Friday, July 14, 2017.