War For The Planet Of The Apes

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is the rare summer film that does not ride into cinemas on a wave of hype and splashy marketing. FOX wisely followed what they did with the prior films in the prequel series and let the film stand on its own without a marketing blitz of overexposure and hype that would be difficult for any film to match.

The movie one again stars Andy Serkis as Caesar who is leading the tribe of intelligent apes as they try to survive a deadly new attack by humanity. It is learned that a deadly virus has laid waste to humanity and the survivors have waged war on the apes as they are linked to the origins of the disease.

As the film opens as ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson), has conducted a series of attacks on the apes who only want to be left alone to live in peace. After a tragic attack, the apes decide they must find a new home but Caesar has decided that the personal nature of the recent attack must be addressed and he abandons his live and let live moral code to attack the Colonel directly as his grudge is with him and not the troops under his command.

A small band of apes travels with Caesar and along the way they encounter a mute child whom one of the party names Nova (Amiah Miller). The group also encounters an ape who calls himself Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who while not part of their group, has learned to speak and has some very interesting information about what has been going on outside the ape community.

When Caesar and the Colonel do meet up, his ruthless and vicious nature is abundantly clear as he has forced apes to work for him, and has zero concerns about beating, starving, and killing them when the whim arises. What really makes his character stand out is the rationale behind his actions which when revealed give a new depth and complexity to what could easily have been a standard Popcorn movie bad guy.

The two sides soon find themselves locked in a battle for survival with a dangerous third side entering the picture which leads to a very exciting and action-filled finale.

What makes the film so enjoyable aside from the great performances of the cast is the way that the amazing and spectacular effects enhance the story rather than carry it. The screenplay by Mark Bomback expands on his work from the previous film and creates an at times chilling but cautionary and intelligent story that does not rely on technobabble and other tricks to convey the message. The audience is able to immerse themselves into this world and the dubious morality of the characters is easy to relate to. You can understand that desperate situations can lead individuals to take extreme actions for survival and at times I found myself very conflicted on just which side I should be rooting for in the film.

With a strong script, amazing visuals, and incredible performances from Harrelson and Serkis, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is the rare summer film that exceeds expectations and is one of the better films of the year.

4.5 stars out of 5