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War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

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War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

5 stars

Hello, Oscars!  Allow me to introduce you to your first 2017 contender for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the next Academy Awards.   War for the Planet of the Apes is THAT good.

I’m on the record for not being the biggest fan of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.   I won’t repeat what I said back then about that one, but I was also a staunch supporter of where the rebooted series went in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014.  Finally, we got a bit of muck and mire on our hands.  Grit was allowed to mix and blood was spattered as smaller scenes made really BIG splashes and raw emotion took over.  As a fan of the original series, I was thrilled to see the series become something mightier.  Thump on that chest.  Raise those rifles up over your heads.   

Here we are then in 2017, three years later, with yet another Planet of the Apes movie.  Worry not, though, the success of the second installment was definitely not a fluke.  War for the Planet of the Apes clears the fences and is, at times, better at creating that epic sense of storytelling that comes from cinematic masters of the medium like Robert Wise and David Lean than any other one of the prequels.  This one definitely won’t be forgotten during Oscar season. 

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) returns to the Ape-tastic franchise for War for the Planet of the Apes and he continues to play up the small scenes that made his Dawn of the Planet of the Apes so damn impactful.  Once again, he presents us with a very serious and very simian-centric tale about apes, humans, and WAR. How far would you go to protect your friends and families from the threat other beings presented?  Would you bring about harm to all you loved in doing so?  These are some of the questions asked and, trust me; the narrative provides no easy answers.  Blame is not easily placed.

Two years after the events in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his family – including those simians still with him – feel the proverbial walls closing in on their existence.  Sure, there’s a whole Moses sequence we’ve yet to see, but fear – the worst four-letter word there is – has wormed its way into their camp.  The harsh truth is that their place is no longer safe, nor is it secure, and that fear – once accepted – makes for some really difficult situations. 

Even other apes – especially those seeking revenge on Caesar – are joining forces with the humans, now led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson).  His worldview is equal to that of ivory trader Kurtz from Heart of Darkness.  Much of his dialogue is in terms of black and white.  There are no shades; it either is or it isn't.  And the world, as he sees it, is best when humans ARE the on top.  He is obsessed with making sure that humans remain the dominant species and delivers his "exterminate all the brutes" machismo without nary a wink or a nudge.

But, as the film points out, even he and his paramilitary operation have reason enough for such rhetoric and soon Caesar feels tremendous loss where it hurts the most. And we weep for both sides of this world.

With nods to Vietnam and now-classic films about war, War for the Planet of the Apes is both compelling and intelligent.  It is also fully aware of itself and what it needs to do as the final piece of Caesar’s legacy.  There are a handful of humorous moments, mainly courtesy of Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, but this is an insanely honest portrait of the ravages of war that many - maybe even not fans of the series - will definitely be able to relate to.

Moody and dark, the new installment is a soulful success.  It also extends Reeves’ work on Dawn thanks to the returning lens of cinematographer Michael Seresin.  Once again, we have a conflict that is supported more by strong characters with real emotions than by villains with bigger guns.  While the central conflict indeed grows and grows and both sides face HUGE losses, the characters and their emotions match these extensions of the story, resulting in a movie that is insanely expressive and effective in creating visceral responses in its audience.

The movie also features some of the best ape effects we’ve ever seen.  WETA has outdone itself with effects so real all we can concentrate on are, as it should be, the rich performances.    Remember that gamey sequence as Caesar runs up to the attic in the original?  It’s been dumped.  Long gone.  The sequences here are beyond photo-realistic.  Regardless of the environment (snow, desert, woods), they are indeed damn impressive.  Also extraordinary is Serkis and his stirring performance.  Surely, an award or two or three can’t be too far away... 

The Apecalypse is NOW.

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
140 mins
Director
: Matt Reeves
Writer:
Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Cast:
Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Genre
: Action  |  Sci-fi
Tagline:
For freedom. For family. For the planet..
Memorable Movie Quote: "I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you're here. To finish us off... for good."
Theatrical Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes
Release Date:
July 14, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

No details available.

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

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