Review – War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox/Chernin) Cert 12A, 140 mins

Reboots, remakes and sequels are a divisive topic in cinema. Many of them are cheap and lazy attempts to cash in on a beloved franchise while others are a genuinely fresh approach which bring something new to a familiar story. Sadly films in the latter category are few and far between.

With originality in short supply it’s important that studios put a bit more effort in if they want to put a new spin on something. Otherwise they risk serious box office fatigue as people simply don’t want to waste their time and money on a poorly constructed blatant money grab which soils fond memories of the original.

Fortunately the new Planet of the Apes trilogy has more than delivered. There was probably an audible sigh saying “really?” around the world when it was announced the series was being rebooted just 10 years after the Tim Burton directed Planet of the Apes featuring Marky Mark sunk without much trace. Despite the rich history of the franchise and a great array of characters to choose from it was pretty rubbish.

Thankfully Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 was better. Resetting the clock and taking us to a time when apes had not yet taken over the planet it was a fresh approach. It looked at how they became smart and how the world started to fall apart. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes followed in 2014 and expanded on the brewing war between humans and the newly freed smart apes. Both films received wide praise for the writing and performances – particularly the amazing motion capture performance of Andy Serkis as chimpanzee Caesar who had become leader of the apes.

With two strong movies behind it War for the Planet of the Apes has been much anticipated as the struggle for supremacy finally spills over into open warfare.

Caesar himself doesn’t want war and as the film starts we find him and his fellow simians trying to avoid being discovered in their hiding place deep in the woods. Unfortunately the humans seeking to stop what they believe is an attempt by the apes to take over the world are relentless. After an assault on some apes ends in disaster for the army troops trying to kill Caesar the tables are turned as their maniacal leader only referred to as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) finds and attacks the apes hideaway. Driven to the edge by the incident Caesar sends his tribe on their way to a new safe space and heads out on a revenge mission to destroy the Colonel.

And the way the movie unfolds is what sets it aside as one of the best films of the year and a well deserved accolade of being one of the best remakes in a franchise I’ve seen. The story and characters in this film are brought to life on screen in a thrilling, heart stopping, gut wrenching and spectacular way. It’s relentless at times as humans and apes battle for control. The balance of power swings one way then the other but all the time you root for the apes rather than the humans. At the end of the day all they want to do is live their new lives in peace away from war hungry mankind. A dream we all aspire to.

Special mention here has to go to Andy Serkis. He’s been an absolute giant of motion capture performance since his standout turn as Gollum in Lord of the Rings. He is actually a really good actor when he’s not in a black skin tight leotard covered in tiny white tracking balls. Oo-er. But he’s an exceptional talent when it comes to this world. He has brought Caesar to life beautifully and in this film he soars far beyond even the first two entries in the series and delivers a truly astonishing performance. It’s incredibly powerful stuff as Caesar wrestles with his desire for peace and revenge. If this was award season Serkis would easily be up there to win more than a few prizes.

Using all of the technology available the apes are stunningly life like. You almost feel like you can reach out and run your hand through their fur. Actually do apes have fur or hair? I opted for fur first so that must be right. They are incredible feats of achievement in special effects. If you weren’t aware that apes aren’t really running around speaking and riding horses you’d swear you were watching the real thing doing that. That’s a powerful testament to just how good the team and actors who did the work are.

War for the Planet of the Apes represents a close to the new trilogy. Further films are planned and may well tie in with the story-line which the original films from the 60s and 70s explored. Who knows – perhaps they’ll revive the original costumes and strange British accented flappy mouthed apes next time round! And have a Marky Mark poster on a wall somewhere just for old times sake.

Summary:

Just a damn good movie. Perfect pace, plot and characters. A outstanding turn from Andy Serkis as Caesar once again. It’s brilliantly shot by director Matt Reeves but credit is fully due to all cast and crew for providing over two hours of intense action and edge of your seat drama. And if you don’t have a tear in your eye at the end you’re a cold and heartless monster and you’re one for the watching. Yes you. You know who you are. Lucky for me they didn’t bring the lights up for a while so I could compose myself 🙂

This one comes in the highly recommended category – get out to the cinema and see it!

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