Published on July 31st, 2017 | by Tim Cooper
War for the Planet of the Apes – Film Review
Reviewed by Tim Cooper on the 31st of July 2017
Fox presents a film by Matt Reeves
Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves,
Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Judy Greer
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography Michael Seresin
Edited by William Hoy and Stan Salfas
Running Time: 140 minutes
Release Date: the 27th of July 2017
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third instalment in the prequel trilogy, leading into the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tree dwelling pals are back and are once again facing extinction. After an army fronted by a military extremist known only as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) invades the ape settlement, Caesar vows to have his revenge and put an end to this new human threat. The Colonel’s personal vendetta to enslave and wipe out any defiant apes through military force brings the two sides of nature together in a final war between the different species.
In brandishing the word ‘War’ in the title and arriving after an explosive trailer, one wouldn’t be wrong to expect all out man vs. ape warfare upon viewing this feature. While Dunkirk currently showcases impressive direction and scale, and still captures the drama of war, this film arrives with a confused message both thematically and stylistically. The problem with this film is in the title itself—War for the Planet of the Apes is not a war film.
There’s tension and there’s torture. There is personal sacrifice and spurts of controlled violence; however, war is not controlled, it is messy. War is dominating and when it comes to the destruction of a race, war is a broad and horrific massacre. This film isn’t broad. It is one repeated message delivered through obvious homages to films such as Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Great Escape (1963). This film isn’t about war, but uses it as a backdrop. This film is about the survival of spirit and the belief in the good of man (and yes, ape as well).
War for the Planet of the Apes primarily focuses on its two main characters, Caesar and the Colonel. Serkis and Harrelson work well together and their scenes have palpable tension when they aren’t chewing on rehashed and predictable dialogue.
Considering Serkis’ onscreen presence with his voice and motion captured movement, this is a remarkable achievement for the director Matt Reeves, the actors involved and the effects team combined. The digital effects remain a stunning highlight of this film and along with the cinematography by Michael Seresin, the visuals cut an impressive looking film that holds up to minuscule scrutiny even on the big screen.
War attempts to be metaphoric in the sense that we the audience are both the man and the ape. We strive to protect what’s ours and defend what we love. Tragedy and loss can shape a soul into something new; both Caesar and The Colonel for example have been changed by war. Yet these themes aren’t new ideas for this series or film in general.
With a script that isn’t as bold, fresh or loaded as it pretends to be, most of the film’s scenes play out to overly long and derivative predictability. Ill-timed comedy pauses the tension and seems inappropriate in a film that takes itself very seriously. Tugging aggressively on our heartstrings through torture scenes, the audience is twisted into caring for characters only to then rinse and repeat this process for the duration of the bloated running time.
Some may respond to the grandiose chest beating but under the surface this film doesn’t progress the story of the rebooted Apes franchise any further. War for the Planet of the Apes is a middling and depressing feature in both its viewing experience and its obvious reach for box office success. With a welcome and conclusive character arc, this film should be the final in the series. Although if the film performs strongly, you can bet your bananas Andy Serkis won’t be out of work for quite some time.
Summary: With a script that isn’t as bold, fresh or loaded as it pretends to be, most of the film’s scenes play out to overly long and derivative predictability.