War for the Planet of the Apes

Cast

Andy Serkis as Caesar
Woody Harrelson as Colonel
Karin Konoval as Maurice
Steve Zahn as Bad Ape
Amiah Miller as Nova
Judy Greer as Cornelia
Director
Matt Reeves
(based on characters created by)
Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver
Writer
Mark Bomback
Matt Reeves
Cinematographer
Michael Seresin
Composer
Michael Giacchino


 

Tex Cooper:

War for the Planet of the Apes opens with three meaty title cards that immediately invoke Star Wars. The effect of this is twofold; it catches the audience up on the story of Caesar and his community of apes, and it stakes its claim to a place alongside the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. It’s a bold move, if not a bit immodest, but I’ll be damned if over the course of three movies this series hasn’t more than earned its place among the greats.

War is aptly titled, but likely not in the way most audiences (myself included) were expecting. The film opens two years into the war with the human army briefly glimpsed in the closing moments of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, so most of the “war” part of the movie has happened off screen.  A particularly brutish Colonel was dispatched with the remnants of the U.S. Army to wipe out the remaining apes and he has made killing Caesar his primary objective. The film kicks off with a staggeringly operatic battle between man and ape that reintroduces us to Caesar, now graying and fraying as the cruelty of war chips away at his noble intentions.

Craig Morrow:

You’re giving this movie a lot of credit but the first thing I’ll agree with is the fact that this “war” is used loosely. There is never a direct conflict between the humans and the apes. What we get instead is an overplayed Colonel that has gone mad trying to hunt down Ceasar and the apes. By the second act he’s done so, and any hopes for an onscreen war are dashed forever. Instead what we get is a cliched, Goonie-ish escape movie, where the motives on both sides are confusing and a concept that was top level Hollywood is reduced to a sketched out revenge movie premise.

T.C.

I literally have no idea what the damn you are talk about.  In what way are the motives on either side confused? Did you get high before the movie and then have to take a massive pee in the middle of each act? Let me see if I can spell out the plot for you.

A tragic inciting incident pushes Caesar towards his inner Koba (the antagonist from the previous film) and it’s up to Maurice the wise orangutan, the protective gorilla Luca and loyal best friend Rocket to their leader from turning to the dark side. As Creaser leads his small posse on a journey of vengeance against The Colonel, they pick up newcomers Nova (Amiah Miller), an orphaned human child who is unable to speak (and a fantastic reference to the original 1968 film) and Bad Ape, an utterly charming chimp played by Steve Zahn. There is a scene between Caesar and Bad Ape, shot mostly in shadowed close-ups, which I would put against any human performance this year. My affection for this quartet of simians was so profound that I am at a loss at what to say to those who dismiss these films as “talking monkey movies” (Actually, I know exactly what I would say to them, I’m just not going to say it here.)

C.M.

How dare you say that Bad Ape gave a wonderful performance, he is the Jar-Jar Binks of the Apes world and the exact moment when you can see the cracks in a usually serious and thoughtful series. He’s totally out of place here.

This would have been a very powerful first act of a better movie called War for the Planet of the apes. One in which things had gotten so dire on Earth that it all came down to one battle and the winner took it all. Caesar could have collected his apes and his human allies, rallied against a good cause and then ended the movie as the ruler of the planet. This would have also tied in beautifully with the reference in which humans are losing the ability to communicate. If in the final moments of War, the final human loses their voice; it would make sense that the Apes would take them in, first as sympathizers and gradually as pets and slaves.

T.C.

Once again I strongly disagree. I will address you (wrong) opinion of Bad Ape outside at our monthly Fight Club (I’m bringing a bat to this one.) I just couldn’t be more dumbfounded by your criticism of the movie’s structure. The film is split quite neatly into three acts and I would say three distinctive genres. The first act is the war film (the Vietnam film to be exact), the second act is essentially a road movie, and the third act is prison flick, evoking memories of both Escape from Alcatraz and Spartacus in equal measure.  Each of these segments were powerful in their own way, and while I did find the third act turn a bit jarring, I’m not sure if that is the fault of the film or me not paying attention.

C.M.

A few specific problems that I had with the movie – the Colonel has captured the apes to help build him a wall. Fair enough, but what good is a wall going to do against helicopters and tanks? Wouldn’t he have been more satisfied to kill the apes?

Also, other than a reference to the 1968 version that I didn’t get, what was Nova’s purpose? She didn’t bridge a gap between human and ape understanding, she was just an extra body.

T.C. 

To address your first point, the Colonel is delusional. Caesar literally tells him that his idea to build a wall is insane. Given that I live in a country where a delusional narcissist has convinced  half the population that building a wall is a fantastic way to keep bad guys out, I would say that isn’t too far fetched. As for your second point, I can’t really take anyone seriously in a conversation about Planet of the Apes who doesn’t know who Nova is.

The finale is both triumphant and melancholy. From the irony of how the human armies ultimately meet their end, to the emotional reveal of the ape’s new home, the ending of this film specifically and this trilogy as a whole is about as perfect as I could have imagined. The PotA’s prequel trilogy has been a miracle that frankly I still can barely believe exists. Goodbye Caesar, I’m going to miss you. 4 1/2 out of 5 Apes on Horseback

C.M.

With Caesar dead and the apes finally rid of any impending attack from humans, I guess we’re lead to believe they are safe to build their world in the open land. The problem is that, I thought I was going to get a first glimpse of that world in this movie and I was left with nothing. The war never happened; the apes overcame a madman, but didn’t conquer anyone. I expected much more from the series and I hope it’s not the end – maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see Fall of the Planet Of The Apes one day where there is a truer opposition. If not, this will always go down as the weak point of the franchise. I’d skip it.

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