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Dan's Review: "War for the Planet of the Apes" an incredible, dark movie

Jul 15, 2017 12:06AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes - © 2017 20th Century Fox.

War for the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.

Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Judy Greer, Max Lloyd-Jones, Devyn Dalton, Sara Canning, Michael Adamthwaite, Aleks Paunovic, Alessandro Juliani, Toby Kebbell, Gabriel Chavarria, Chad Rook.

Written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves, based on characters created

by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

Directed by Matt Reeves.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

When it comes to re-imagined film series, there aren’t many that are truly imaginative. Too often, the new versions simply re-hash familiar elements, or end up as silly spoofs. When Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011, it seemed that the franchise would take an entirely new direction as an origin story, set in the contemporary world. 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes took the saga to bigger extremes, setting up a confrontation between Apes and mankind. The newest installment hits theaters this week with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes.

Set in a dystopian future in which most has been wiped out by the “Simian Flu,” only a handful of men remain. Andy Serkis is back as Caesar (providing the voice and motion capture necessary to bring the computer-generated character to life), the chimpanzee leader of intelligent apes at war with humans. When a platoon of humans attack the apes in the forest, Caesar knows more will come and plans to move the tribe to a desert sanctuary far away from any contact with men. The human leader is “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson), a rogue megalomaniac bent on wiping out all apes. The Colonel attacks the apes and kills some of Caesar’s family, prompting the apes to leave sooner than expected. Caesar sends the tribe along without him, taking off on his own to kill the Colonel. Caesar’s closest advisor Maurice (Karin Konoval) joins him, along with a few other “inner circle” apes. Caesar’s group encounters an orphaned mute girl they name “Nova” (Amiah Miller). Maurice has compassion on the girl and convinces Caesar to allow her to tag along. The group also encounters a hermit chimp named “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains before reaching the Colonel’s encampment. They are shocked to discover the entire tribe has been captured and forced to build a wall for the Colonel, who is preparing for a battle against a separate human army on its way to bring him to justice. Ceasar allows himself to be captured by the Colonel in order to lead his tribe and keep them from annihilation. He also discovers that the virus that wiped out most of humanity has mutated, making mankind slip into a devolved state; unable to speak and becoming less intelligent. Caesar makes plans to free his tribe and eliminate the Colonel, leading to a great escape and battle. Caesar must choose between revenge and compassion before the great conflict comes to a conclusion.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a very good, but very dark film, exploring the limits of humanity from the ape’s point of view. The quality drama is complimented by incredible special effects to create CG ape characters that are so life-like you’d swear they are real. Steve Zahn’s “Bad Ape” character steals all his scenes in the movie, providing plenty of humor and a sense of wonder.

War for the Planet of the Apes also accomplishes another feat. It brings the Ape saga to another point where the first Planet of the Apes began in 1968, when Charlton Heston and company crash landed after a long trip in outer space (if you were paying attention in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you’d notice the set up for a return to this story line). There’s also some finality to the trilogy, setting up a whole new chapter that has real possibilities for the future. It's also one of the best films of the year.

 

War for the Planet of the Apes Trailer

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