War for the Planet of the Apes
Released on July 14, 2017 Rating:
Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.
When I went to the theaters to see War for the Planet of the Apes, I didn’t expect what I got. I have enjoyed the reboot film series, starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes followed up by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but I wouldn’t call it a favorite. The reboot films follow a darker vision, but in my opinion that’s because it’s a more honest one. This film is by far the darkest installment yet, which perhaps is also why it’s the best.
War lives up to its name and picks up where Dawn left off. Without giving too much away, Rise was an important beginning story, but rather than feature the talking apes people might think of when they hear about the franchise, it went back much further and its central themes surrounded how people treat animals (we don’t give them the respect and care they deserve), as well as how man would be the key to their own downfall (engineering a virus out of greed that gets loose and wipes out most people, setting the stage for the following films). Dawn was mostly about where everyone ended up (humankind and apes) after the events of Rise, and how the “war” got started. War is about the last of humanity scrambling to regain control of the planet and survive – thinking it is the apes or them. And yet in a time where everyone should be unified, both humans and apes find themselves propelled by fear and ego over anything of substance, bringing about mutual destruction.
I’ve already stated War is the best of the three films in the reboot franchise, but more than that it is the best movie I have seen this summer, so far. Masterful is a word I rarely use and yet, it is the word that I can’t stop thinking when it comes to this movie. It has some of the most haunting and moving scenes out of any blockbuster movie that I have seen in a long, long time. The performances in this film are phenomenal, and not what you would expect from a science fiction movie, mainstream or not.
But while the acting is top notch, the real props go to the writing and direction of the film (which happen to be the same person, Matt Reeves). When I think about what elevates this film, I know what it is right away: the story. The storytelling in this film is superb, not just the story itself, as it is written, but how it is conveyed onscreen. While the movie is over two hours, it never lags and you’re never aware because you’re too engrossed in the story. Words like “epic” and “masterpiece” slip past and I’m like, “Wait a second, you’re just a sci-fi movie and I’m not super into sci-fi films – that’s not right.” But it is.
The movie is about humanity at its darkest and what it means to be human. It’s about survival. It’s about war and all of the trappings that go with war. And something more, it’s an eerie reflection of the world we live in now. I almost thought about titling this review “Through the Looking Glass” because War (I feel) is like holding up a mirror to our society today and says, “Doesn’t this look just like you?” In terms of social commentary, if ever there was cause for alarm, this is it. Funny thing, I don’t think that was ever this movie’s intention, just one more reason this is the must-see movie of the summer.
Seriously, even if talking apes isn’t your thing, you have to see this movie. It has war, action, effects, great acting, fantastic storytelling, drama and makes you think. But you won’t realize until after. When you can’t shake the film because it actually reached out and touched you. How many movies can do that and still be entertaining? Not that many, that’s for damn sure. Go see this now!