Review - War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), PG-13, 2h 20min - My apologies, between not getting to this movie until last Sunday, having family in town this weekend, and getting distracted by all of the SDCC news from the last couple of days, I'm just now getting around to working on my review for War for the Planet of the Apes.  War is the final installment of the reboot/prequel trilogy that began with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes and continued with 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Quick disclaimer right up front: as this is the last part of a trilogy, the continuity is tightly tied to the two preceding films.  If you haven't seen those, be sure to make time to watch them first, otherwise the impact of this film will be severely diluted.  Also, as the name implies, there is a good bit of war related violence, particularly involving apes.  If you're an animal lover like my wife, you probably want to steer clear completely.  For everyone else, let's get into my review!

War takes place about five years after the conclusion of Dawn (which took place ten years after the events of Rise).  The apes that have evolved as a side effect of scientific trials for an Alzheimer's drug  (Rise) have rebuilt their society after the conflict in Dawn and now find themselves in the middle of an all out war with a human military outfit that is committed to eliminating the apes so that humanity can itself begin to rebuild (an epidemic stemming from the Alzheimer's testing wiped out the majority of the human population).  An assassination attempt on ape leader Caesar's life goes awry, his wife and son being killed instead.  This tips Caesar over the edge emotionally.  He had previously been in favor of ape and human co-existence but he is now filled with rage and we see Caesar's struggle with his responsibilities as leader to his fellow apes and his desire for revenge on those who took his family from him.

Each entry in this trilogy has increasingly relied on the visual effects used to bring the apes to life as they have become the main focus of the store.  In this film the humans are definitely the minority, but the story does not suffer one bit.  The apes have been carefully developed over the three film arc so that we not only relate to, but come to care for them as the viewer.  Led by Andy Serkis (Caesar) and his ever-continuing advancements in motion capture technology, the apes have absolutely no problem carrying this film and their conflict with Woody Harrelson's human forces.  Harrelson's performance as The Colonel was strong, his personality and inner suffering a good balance for the ape-dominant film.

I grew up on the wonder (and sometimes campiness) of the original Planet of the Apes films.  They may not hold up so well given the advancements in special effects over the last fifty years, but they are sci-fi classics none-the-less.  I love that this new trilogy brings not only an updated feel and presentation to the franchise, but also fills in the blanks as to how the planet came to be the way it was when Charlton Heston and his crew crash landed on what seemed to be foreign planet.  I'd love to see the franchise continue with future installments, even if they re-hash events of the original film(s).  If that doesn't happen, this trilogy can still stand as a nice prequel to those original films.  If you're a fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise at all (old or new), you'll definitely enjoy this film.  If you're not familiar with the franchise, I highly recommend beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and working your way through the modern trilogy.











*****SPOILERS*****

- Supposedly, a fourth film is in the works, which would be awesome.  Even if that doesn't happen, these three films would work as a prequel to the original films.  This film introduces/identifies characters that are central to the original Planet of the Apes (1968): Caesar's youngest son Cornelius and the mute girl named Nova.  There are also a number of visual references to the original film such as the x-shaped crosses that the humans used to punish apes and the lake at the end of the film.

- Getting an origin story of sorts for Nova (Amiah Miller) was actually pretty cool.

- I personally could have done with the goofiness of 'Bad Ape'.  Unfortunately, I understand why he was used narratively.  I'm just not a fan of forced comedic relief, which is what he felt like.

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