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MOVIE REVIEW: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Posted on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Twentieth Century Fox’s “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

If you thought war was a man’s game

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

***1/2/ ****

By Jason Wiese

In 1968, when Planet of the Apes was first released, the audience at the time saw the film as no more than a clever B-movie. But who knew that it would later inspire one of the best war movies of today’s generation?

Seriously.

Since Matt Reeves took over as director of the prequel reboots of the Planet of the Apes franchise, beginning with 2011’s James Franco-led Rise and Reeves stepping in for 2014’s Dawn, he has turned it into an emotional, character-driven epic that explores the humanity and strength of a species that human beings often look down on. War for the Planet of the Apes is the most gripping entry yet and, hopefully, a proper ending to the story of Caesar, portrayed by Andy Serkis in one of the most inspiring motion capture performances of all time.

Taking place not long after the events of Dawn led to unforgivable conflict between the apes and Earth’s last remaining humans, War sees Caesar struggling to keep peace and protect his kind as a cold-hearted colonel (Woody Harrelson) swears to take back the planet any way he can. Caesar and his closest comrades must make rash decisions as they face the trials of a war they did not ask for.

If you had any prior assumption that this is another typical summer popcorn film, promptly throw that out the window. War is a truly honorable entry into the war film genre. It mirrors the same themes of bravery, anguish, unjust cruelty and retaliation that are found in such classics as Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List. It just so happens that the protagonists are highly intelligent primates.

Speaking of which, the motion capture performances, (also including Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval and Judy Greer, among others) are flawless. The combination of the actors’ gravitas and the seamless computer animation is enough that the studio probably could have gotten away with saying they just hired a really good animal trainer.

It may be a prequel, but it stands on its own as Reeves crafts a powerful story with a timely message of how we perceive beings unlike ourselves as threats, how we define our humanity and how we can lose it with one risky move. Prepare for a film that will live in infamy.