Apes. Together. Strong.

Matt Reeves and Andy Serkis are back to finish the trilogy that no one thought would be any good. War for the Planet of the Apes solidifies my hope that tent pole blockbusters can also be good films. Although I won’t put any spoilers for this film in here, expect some spoilers for Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. You have been warned.

 

Story

Some time after the events of Dawn, Caesar and his clan have settled in the Muir Forest region outside San Francisco. Unfortunately, a rouge military outfit run by Woody Harrelson’s ‘Colonel’, is on the hunt and pose a real threat to the apes’ way of life. Haunted by the memory of Koba and after some personal trauma, Caesar decides enough is enough and begins to hunt the Colonel down himself.

Normally I run through what the story made me feel but I’m going to do something different here and talk about how the story is actually told. Exposition heavy dialogue is the bane of my existence and many films fail by having too much too quickly. War has ONE scene where characters actually exposit. It’s a genuine achievement, in a film of this scale with so few speaking characters, that that number is so small. That scene in question also makes sense because of how Woody Harrelsons character is. He loves the sound of his own voice and asserting dominance over what he considers a lesser species.

This is not a simple good vs evil story either. The moral questions you have to ask yourself really matter and it’s so refreshing to have this kind of dilemma in a massive film that doesn’t have Batman in it.

Everything you need to know about the story and characters is shown to you either with facial expressions or the camera explicitly points to what you need to see. There is so little fat on this sirloin and that just makes it all the more delicious.

 

Cast and Performances

I’m quite tired of having the conversation about Andy Serkis because we should all, by now, recognise the seismic impact that he’s had on the film industry over the last 17 years. Caesar and all of the apes are as real as any of the live action soldiers, or at least they might as well be. There were multiple moments where I forgot that the apes weren’t actually there because of how perfect the performances are, across the board.

Serkis as Caesar of course is the highlight but I would like to personally applaud every actor and motion capture performer for some of the best physical acting ever portrayed on film.

Of all the things I wanted from this film I didn’t know I needed Steve Zahn to play a comedy side character called ‘Bad Ape’. 5 seconds into his first line of dialogue I was ready to hate this character, 5 seconds later I was in love with him. Other mentions must go to Karin Konoval and Terry Notary as Maurice and Rocket for being perfect supporting and sympathetic characters for the whole of the series.

Human wise there’s only two people to talk about. We’ve already mentioned Mr Harrelson and his pitch perfect performance but there’s someone else. 12 year old Amiah Miller plays Nova and even though she doesn’t say a word she is the perfect conduit for the audience to latch onto.

 

Technical

Gee, I wonder what will take up the majority of this section.

Weta digital have upped their game AGAIN with mo-cap. I think we’re FINALLY at the point where motion capture performances should be considered alongside live action. The idea that Andy Serkis wont be nominated for anything come awards season is genuinely annoying me.

Every single ape was performed by someone either on set or in a studio, I’ve seen the film twice now and I can’t get my head around how brilliant it all is. There’s a point where an ape pushes their hands through dirt to create a hole and the knowledge that none of that happened for real is mind-blowing because it looks real. Not realistic, it looks REAL.

Matt Reeves is the director, he also did the previous film Dawn. These two films, combined with Cloverfield and Let Me In has given me complete confidence in the upcoming Batman film that he’s on track to direct.

I mentioned the ‘show don’t tell’ philosophy that this film implemented earlier and I would like to expand on that. If a characters family dies and we find out about this with the camera panning over to see three corpses and panning back to the man holding a smoking gun, we as viewers are intelligent enough to put two and two together. Incidentally, we reward ourselves for picking up on this inference and we feel good because we engaged with the film.

Conversely. If a characters family dies and we find out in a line of dialogue from a character we haven’t met before, I’m telling you now the impact is severely lessened because a picture can tell a thousand words but ‘I killed them and now they’re dead’ is just seven.

The music was done by Michael Giacchino (because he needs the work) and is largely unforgettable. He went for an atmosphere that was thoroughly achieved but didn’t make me feel anything really and I couldn’t sing one piece of score to you from the film.

 

Overall Impressions

On the Multiverse show a few weeks ago I named this film my most anticipated film of the summer. Planet of the Apes is one of my favourite Sci-Fi films and I was a loud and vocal fan of the previous films in this series. I could not have been more excited for this.

So when I sat down and the film opened with soldiers walking silently through a forest, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a film like this for a long time. Appreciation for what I was watching. I love this film and I think if you HAVE to see a film this week then you owe it to yourself to sit down and experience this flawless movie.