War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

It’s time for another movie review presented by our good friends over at FatCats Gilbert on the southwest corner of Greenfield and Baseline! FatCats Gilbert is the best place to see all of the latest smash hits at the box office including the epic finale to the Apes trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes!

The final installment to one of the best surprises in years is about to be here! We’ve come a long way since 2011 brought us Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and this franchise has shown that it isn’t just a financial ploy to steal our dollars. They hit us with plenty of emotion and care with its subject and source material, and it was a great choice for a remake. I really like the original film, but technological advancements are a great reason to start again because the 2001 Tim Burton version didn’t get the job done. Technologically this is one of the best franchises I’ve ever experienced without question. I knew that apes were smart, but Fox has made me believe that they can act and command a screen presence with the best performers of our time. Let’s just get going with the review!

War for the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves and stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, and Judy Greer. Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, has led his community of apes into the final stages of a war he never asked for. He only wants peace and space from the humans as he is willing to give them the same, but the humans have reacted with fear and action. When the apes are ambushed by a group of humans and suffer casualties like never before, Caesar is forced to take action and sets out on a journey with revenge and finality on his mind.

I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but when Dawn of the Planet of the Apes came along it pulled off the rare feat of improving upon the first film in almost every single way. War for the Planet of the Apes did the even rarer thing by improving upon the second film, making the trilogy a crescendo into a grand finale, and Matt Reeves has led us to two installments that will lock this franchise in as one of the greatest of all time. This movie is incredible. I’ll start with the fact that it’s one of the best looking movies I have ever seen. Even when we go to films like Avengers, Star Wars, Batman v. Superman, Transformers, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, or any other big-budget box office wrecking balls out there, you can sometimes tell the difference between practical and computer generated. When I look at War for the Planet of the Apes, the line between the two is virtually nonexistent. There isn’t a single frame of this movie that I could look at and find inauthentic. The CGI is absolutely flawless, and when mixed with how Matt Reeves sets up shots and the cinematography, War for the Planet of the Apes is stunning to look at in all of it’s dystopian settings and colors. The CGI brings us to the next aspect of the movie that is simply mind-blowing which is the acting. Andy Serkis won’t be nominated for an Oscar for playing Caesar, but when we look back on the year in December, Serkis might have given a top five performance or better.

Caesar’s character arc, from Rise of the Planet of the Apes to now, is incredible. Despite being an ape, he has one of the most human transitions and arcs with so many layers and a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. Time passes between these films, but despite not seeing everything unfold on-screen, we are able to draw conclusions as to how our characters have evolved and grown. I also love that the apes have so much personality. It would be easy to make all of them evil, rage-filled primates, but it’s so easy to peel back their layers and find the emotion behind their expressions. There is pain in their eyes, but there is also empathy, love, and mercy, and each ape is distinguishable from the others. Their faces are so personalized and given different physical characteristics to give each of them a definite look that shows their history.

This is nothing new for this franchise, but the way it’s able to blur the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, and business and personal to show everyone’s world-view is brilliant. Each character has a justified motivation, and though we could sit here all day and give a rundown of each belief, the film rarely resorts to telling us through dialogue. If War for the Planet of the Apes was a silent film, it would be just as effective. Caesar has grown into the ability to speak almost fluent English. He now uses conventions and transitions just like a human. He’s not bouncing sentences off the walls, but the way he speaks is very impressive and shows his character growth. Despite all of this, his phrases are written on his face, and this movie is some of the best visual storytelling I have ever seen. This film gave me different things, as well. I walked out of Transformers about a week ago wondering what sets it apart from the others. The answer is that nothing does. All three movies in this trilogy are extremely different themselves as well as exploring different ideas within them. I won’t say too much about major or minor plot points, but there is a whole piece of this movie that I wasn’t expecting to see on top of the obviously expected war scenes. The war scenes are aplenty, and they’re extremely visceral, but it also explores other aspects of war like the mental, emotional, and personal aspects. Matt Reeves handles all of the moving pieces and creates a well-oiled machine.

Woody Harrelson as the Colonel in this film also blew me away. The Colonel is one of the best movie villains we’ve seen all year, again, because we understand his motivations. He keeps the war alive through instilling fear in the humans, and we understand why. You also have to think back to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where Koba actually began the war by killing humans, invading their base, and imprisoning them. After the events of Dawn, I can surely see why humans would be afraid of the apes, so while I took Caesar’s side, I can understand why the Colonel would feel a certain way. So many great side characters appear in this film with the Colonel and Bad Ape being my two favorites. I thought Bad Ape showed how trauma can affect someone. It can cause a person, or in this case a chimpanzee, to go to dark places, but at the same time it allowed him to welcome others into his life, and his personality glowed throughout the film. It doesn’t take much, if any, dialogue to understand the things he has seen and been through, and the timing of his jokes was perfect. He does provide an interesting opposition to where the tone of the franchise usually sits, and it never feels out-of-place.

I also loved Maurice and Rocket. Both being the most loyal apes to Caesar, they play a large role in Caesar’s attempt to finish the war. Their chemistry is fantastic through true love and a family dynamic, and it’s obvious that they all care about each other. I’ve always loved Maurice as Caesar’s wise advisor and often voice of reason, and he has a great storyline in this film exemplifying the ideal nature of his community. He’s a natural caregiver and protector, so when he gets to use those characteristics, his character shines. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to finish this review without talking about Michael Giacchino’s score. This might just be his best score to date through both its simplicity and “epicness.” As I mentioned earlier, this could have been a silent film, and it would have worked because of how the score carries the tone and matches the storytelling. I’m really nitpicking here, but the only true issue I had with the film was that it might be about ten minutes longer than it needed to be. That may be the only area in which War doesn’t top Dawn. Other than that, I really couldn’t find any issues with this movie.

Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is, in my opinion, the best movie I’ve seen this year, and it solidifies this trilogy as one of the best in movie history. The visuals are spectacular, almost as though real gorillas, chimps, and orangutans are acting in the film. Andy Serkis gives an emotionally grilling performance as Caesar in his quest to end the war for good, and his motion-capture work may never be matched by another actor. Caesar’s character arc throughout the trilogy is tied together so intelligently, and it was truly well-thought out as it played the long game. It also introduces many different aspects and genres that it is able to balance so well. Along with riveting war scenes, it delivers a compelling revenge story and a smart slow burn in the final half that I won’t spoil here. No part of this movie is black and white or good and bad. The lines are gray and blurry, and it will make you evaluate the principles of each character by presenting motivations and asking you what is justified. It’s not just an action movie. It studies the properties of life and humanity, and each character has so many layers. The singular issue I had with the film was that it’s a bit longer than it absolutely needed to be, but in every other aspect it improves upon both predecessors and gives us much more than a popcorn flick. I’m going to give War for the Planet of the Apes a 9.5/10.

Will you be checking out War for the Planet of the Apes? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

About Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]