The latest Planet of the Apes franchise has slowly grown to become one of the most well made and meaningful film franchises there are out there, with the first in the series Rise working to perfectly create the beginning of what grew to become an absolute epic in the second film Dawn. This trend follows on into the latest film of the series, War, with the film managing to communicate very strong, meaningful messages regarding honour and morality whilst also continuing to be an absolutely epic, immersive and entertaining film experience with exceptional performances from all involved.
The film doesn’t monkey around with getting stuck into the action, with it giving a brief overview of where the story is at following everything that happened in Dawn and swiftly getting into a huge action set piece; depicting what the war between the humans and Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) tribe of Apes has become, how the apes that used to follow Caesar’s betrayer Korbo have now become enslaved by the humans army and how Caesar is still struggling to find peace in the midst of the war in which the humans will not back down. After this grand spectacle the film quickly moves in a different direction and instead of being a film about out and out, non stop war, a direction it could have easily taken, it becomes a lot more of a deeper, personal story about Caesar and his struggle in managing to find a safe haven for his tribe, whilst also trying to exact personal revenge on The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) which leads him on a struggle of knowing what is wrong and right. This direction the film chooses to go in makes for a much more interesting and intriguing journey for the viewer.
The film portrays Woody Harrelson’s character of The Colonel in an especially clever way as throughout the film to begin with you only briefly see The Colonel in the flesh and then besides that you only hear harrowing tales of what kind of brutal systems he has put in place for his army and see glimpses of exactly how brutal they are, so it really works to paint a picture of just how intense Woody Harrelson’s character really is, before even meeting. On top of this, you are also on the exact same path of discovery as Caesar throughout the film, who is also trying to piece everything together and really learn just what is going on with The Colonel, which makes for much more of an intriguing watch.
Much like Harrelson’s, Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar is absolutely brilliant as he manages to portray so much emotion through the character and create a deep and expansive profile as the story goes on, the same goes for the group of apes he takes on his journey for revenge, as they all portray such deep emotion for a group of apes who, for the most part, can only communicate through sign language and facial expression. The introduction of the two new characters, Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) and Nova (Amiah Miller), at first will leave some wondering where their roles in the film are going to lead and whether or not they really will suit the mood of the film, especially Bad Ape as the voice of Steve Zahn coming from the Ape can really catch you off guard at first, but as their stories and dynamics with the rest of the group develop it works really well to seamlessly add a whole new layer to the already intricately put together, well layered story.
Throughout the story, the tension slowly builds to create a very rewarding final act of the film, with the story being a lot less all out war and more of a battle of wits in what turns out to be a tale very reminiscent of Shawshank Redemption or The Great Escape, but with apes playing the part of the prisoners, which may sound stupid when on paper, but it is something that Matt Reeves and the writers have turned into an absolute epic. This narrative plays out whilst Caesar and The Colonel themselves build a very interesting relationship, with The Colonel showing a certain level of respect for Caesar and his purpose but also is ultimately trying to be victorious over him, whilst Caesar is both playing along with The Colonel’s game whilst also trying to outsmart him. So the film really works well to slowly weave together an intriguing story which all comes together in the end to conclude in what is some extremely cleverly written poetic justice.
Overall, War For The Planet Of The Apes has a whole host of more intriguing things going on than just your bog standard war, it is an intriguing battle of wits and fight for freedom which is poetically put together to create a powerful character driven story which really has a huge level of deeper meaning than it might look like it would have on face value. It tells a truly meaningful story about how blurred the line can be between right and wrong and especially whilst the difference between personal pride and honour can themselves be blurred during the search for power over others. It manages to portray all this whilst not getting to bogged down in the specifics of the plot and continuing to be a thoroughly entertaining cinematic epic.
Ape, Together, Gubby.