Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis (voice), Judy Greer (voice), Woody Harrelson, Terry Notary (voice), Steve Zahn (voice), Ty Olsson (voice)
Running Time: 139m 58s
Release Date: 11/07/2017
If you’re expecting two hours of bloodshed, gun fire and explosions you’d be disappointed, although I urge you not to be. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES director, Matt Reeves, has delivered a much more sophisticated war film which saves the explosives for a truly climatic and emotive ending.
Two years after the events of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the US military lead an unsuccessful assassination on Camp Caesar. Armed with their own apes (or rather ‘donkeys’ as they call them), machine guns and helmets decorated with slogans such as ‘monkey killer’ (the first of many nods to Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW) they crawl deeper into the forest on the hunt for Caesar. An early fight ensues as the fatalities weigh heavy on the shoulders of our ape leader.
Caesar, now battle worn, scarred and greying fur is excellently portrayed by Andy Serkis (soon to reprise his role as Supreme Leader Snoke in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI) who you can still see behind the ape like features which are frighteningly realistic. Caesar remains respected by his fellow apes as they make way for him and bow down as he walks past. The physical effects of war are nothing on the internal struggle for both ape and human.
After a fatal encounter with the nameless Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Reeves’ quickly changes the pace. The initial war turns into a quest and later on their quest turns into a prison break. Caesar, along with his most trusted comrades, Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) Rocket (Terry Notary), and Maurice (Karin Konoval) wish to enact revenge on the Colonel. This is in stark contrast to DAWN where Caesar tries to avoid conflict with the humans, but clearly Koba (Toby Kebbell) has had a lasting effect on him.
In search of the US military base, Caesar and his comrades pick up a young mute girl, Nova (Amiah Miller) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), the latter whom provides some light comic relief, which can sometimes feel a little miss-placed. Riding horseback through the mountains Reeves’ war film starts to feel more like a western as the Rocky Mountains makes a spectacular backdrop.
You would have thought such natural, stunning scenery would show some sort of flaw on the digitally created apes, but no, every detail from the leathery skin to the damp digital fur in the rain is strikingly clear and realistic. Most of the apes communicate in sign language which is delivered with such intensity and emotion that any lack of speech or conversation isn’t missed.
Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar is just as brilliant as ever as he proves he really is paving the way for motion capture. Every battle, whether it be emotional or physical is skilfully sketched into Caesar’s movements. Even the gentle giant Maurice shows such care and compassion with Nova without even uttering a word.
Reeves devotes a perfect amount of time developing his characters so they don’t get lost in the visual spectacle. Each character is fighting their own battle and the human vs ape theme permeates throughout WAR and the franchise. Reeves plays on this, our Colonel Kurtz-like villain is fighting a battle against the apes and also a developing virus which strips the humans of the power of speech, reducing them to animal status – you can’t help but see the irony in this.
Reeves delivers on a carefully thought out sequel which has you rooting for Team Caesar. This isn’t just a war film with a huge army and big guns, but a smart and sophisticated depiction of battle which makes way for a compelling narrative and engaging characters – apes truly are stronger together.