A Perfect Finale For An Incredible Trilogy
A little over 6 years ago the Planet Of The Apes saga was rebooted under the name of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and received critical acclaim. The sequel, 2014’s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, grew the story and branched the narrative out in interesting ways whilst maintaining a steady stream of positive reviews. The final piece to the puzzle, War Of The Planet Of The Apes, is the perfect finale to an incredible trilogy of films. With an increased emphasis on the internal struggle of Caesar, the final Apes film may not be the all out war many will go in expecting, especially given some of the promotional material released before it hit theatres, but there’s a great film here and the 2 hour+ run time never feels like it drags.
The story picks up some time after the previous film and begins in the uneasy quiet of a lush jungle. Soldiers walk silently through the tree-choked landscape as some helpful expository text refreshes on the events that occurred in the previous two films. Caesar finds himself hunted by the remaining humans. After a skirmish results in unimaginable losses for the apes, a rage-induced Caesar vows to avenge his kind while juggling his responsibilities as the leader of the apes. There’s a real Great Escape vibe to the latter period of the film that helps emphasise the war vibe this Planet Of The Apes is going for and for the most part, War absolutely nails it.
Whilst War For The Planet Of The Apes may not have the frenetic, all guns blazing fight to the bitter end many might go in expecting, there’s certainly a chaotic climax here but its more of a backdrop to Caesar’s internal struggle. This is really what drives the story and an Oscar worthy performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar is one of the best character displays this year. The subtle facial expressions combined with outstanding CGI effects elevate the character beyond the slightly primitive plot the film revolves around. War isn’t the most innovative of titles and the internally conflicted hero trope has been done numerous times before. So too has the main plot line that encompasses the second part of the film. What really makes War special is the way it crafts these elements to perfection and rounds them out with detailed characters, typified by a well written script and some excellent pacing throughout.
At a little under 2 and a half hours, War is a long film but it never feels like it’s overlong or padded for the sake of it. Every scene feels deliberately placed with a great emphasis on giving every character an actual arc rather than a cliched trope to adhere to. Its rare these days to find a film that actually takes the time to give even the most minor of character an arc to work through and War is all the more stronger for it. Themes of duty, humanity and survival are carried by the characters and the film is so thematically rooted, it seep into every part of the film. This really helps to make War a more resounding title than Dawn and Rise in many ways, with its focal narrative resting on the internal and external wars we all must go through in life. The main antagonist here, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), is fully fleshed out too and the decision to arm him with redeeming and ugly traits in equal measure emphasises the excellent script in the film. There are moments of pity, empathy, disgust and anger and these warring emotions are effortlessly conveyed through Woody Harrelson’s performance.
Those going into War For The Planet Of The Apes expecting a full on war complete with Michael Bay-esque explosions and set pieces are sure to leave disappointed. Whilst War certainly has its fair share of action, its few and far between, acting as a backdrop to the real meat of the film which is Caesar’s struggles. Another phenomenal performance from Andy Serkis solidifies his place as one of the best character actors out there and opposite equally brilliant Woody Harrelson the two manage to elevate this film a lot. Great visual effects, music and well written characters combine helping War For The Planet Of The Apes finish off the trilogy with a blockbuster worthy of the Apes name. Whilst it might not be the big, frenetic ending many might expect, its still one of the best films this year and even the most critical of fans will enjoy this sombre end to a wonderful trilogy.