Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of both the original Planet of the Apes franchise, as well as our modern day trilogy directed by Matt Reeves. Both Rise and Dawn were able to reintroduce a new generation of fans in a way that Tim Burton so sadly failed at many moons ago. I've been excited about seeing WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES for years now, and I will start the review off by simply stating: bravo.
The film opens with a quick (as in, 3 sentence quick) recap of the events of Rise and Dawn, and introduces us to what our titular apes have been up to since Caesar knelt before his apes, stony faced and awaiting the impending war. He still wants peace, however a new leader of the human army has come to power and he continues to attack the apes in their home. When Caesar is finally pushed over the ledge, we follow him on his journey for vengeance against the man named the Colonel as the war wages on and the livelihood of the apes is left hanging in the balance.
Matt Reeves returns again to direct the final installment in this "prequel trilogy" and it is evident from the get-go that he had his vision since taking on the franchise in Dawn. This is not the story of a man lost in a world topsy-turvy world ruled by apes, but of an ape coming-of-age in a world that is no longer fit for humans. It's about the consequences of the actions of humans and ultimately, how the apes are better fit to rule the world than their once superior descendants. While the original film is a scary story about apes who've taken over the world, this one feels more like a scary story about humans destroying the world they've built and taking themselves along with it. Ultimately at it's core though, it's telling the same story: basic humanity is a trait that transcends the borders of species.
We've watched Caesar grow from an adorable baby, to an intelligent soldier and finally into the leader of a free world. You sympathize with his character and with his plight. You hate as he hates and love as he loves and that is perhaps Reeves' greatest achievement with this film. At the same time, I cannot give the entirety of the credit to Reeves as there would be no Caesar without the amazing performance from Andy Serkis. While most have known Serkis for his work as Gollum/Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises, I believe that he now has a new role that will replace the former in Caesar. The growth of the character is astounding throughout the three films, and in WAR we see that Caesar is now fluent in the English language and can read and write. He has learned to delegate and lead, he has built a family and we finally get to see the leader that we heard of in the original films.
While Andy Serkis led the charge as Caesar, Terry Notary, Steve Zahn and Karin Konoval provided back up in the fight against Woody Harrelson as the Colonel. Harrelson's performance was also noteworthy, adding a layer of depth to the villain that was much needed and elevated the character from a typical third act baddie to someone you could actually empathize with. Serkis and Harrelson played off of each other very well and the dynamic was perfectly fitting for the finale of this trilogy.
Whether you are a fan of the original franchise or not, what Reeves done is create a trilogy that allows a new generation to buy into this fantastical world in which ordinary apes go on to lead the earth into a whole new horizon. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is not only a solid film, it's a perfect closing chapter to the saga of Caesar. You'll laugh, you'll get angry and yes, you'll cry, but it's oh so worth it in every way. I wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES will be released in theaters nationwide Friday, July 14, 2017