War For The Planet Of The Apes

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Reviewed by: Evelin Toth

War For The Planet Of The Apes
"While the last of the trilogy succeeds in preserving its substantial core, the coating this time feels forced and overpowering."

Since a virus deadly to the majority of mankind transformed apes into beings with intellect akin to humans, the remnants of both sides have struggled to maintain peace. Following the corrupt, treacherous Koba’s actions, ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) has embraced the inevitable climax of the situation: war.

From Rise to War, the modern day Planet Of The Apes films set out to achieve a difficult vision. Namely, not only to transform (intelligent) apes into believable, three-dimensional protagonists via CGI, but make audiences invested in their fate, reflecting on the cruelties and corruptions of human nature. The first two films of the trilogy are the proof that with good direction, these ambitions are not far-fetched.

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CGI, or more accurately the heavy reliance on its use by contemporary productions has been at the centre of many recent debates. While its advantages to filmmakers are undoubted, the blockbuster cinema of recent years has been suffering from visually stunning, but substantially lacking productions. This perhaps explains the critical scrutiny and curiosity the Planet Of The Apes films have attracted.

War is not lacking in the emotional grounding present in the first two instalments. While the first film concerned itself with the cruelty of humans through Caesar’s journey from captivity to emancipation, the second has seen a more emotionally mature protagonist having to face the harsh reality that apes can be corrupt too. His naive ideas of a human-ape coexistence on the planet are constantly beaten down and punished, to the point when he chooses to leave his tribe on a path for vengeance. The apes’ journey in the trilogy is a heartfelt analogy for the innocence and inevitable corruption of intelligent beings, asking if it is possible to go down any other path than destruction.

While the last of the trilogy succeeds in preserving its substantial core, the coating this time feels forced and overpowering. Woody Harrelson makes an appearance as the psychotic and vile Colonel, being positioned as the ultimate the apes have to face. However, the reasons behind his cruelty and sadism fail to lend weight to his actions, his outbursts achieving no point other than catering to the film’s self-indulgence in violence. Indeed, the previous two instalments were not lacking in gruesome fights and shootouts either - however, violence, in those cases, was there to support an emotional climax of sorts, from a species not capable of freedom by any other means. In this case, the suffering inflicted upon the apes by the Colonel and his comrades works very little to strengthen the emotional depths. In instances where the fate of the apes seems already sealed and unsalvageable, the often sadistic treatment of them removes the dignity built so carefully by the previous two films, stepping into the realms of treating violence as a purely voyeuristic tool.

War For The Planet Of The Apes is a giant of a spectacle, an impressive proof that computer graphics have a well-deserved place in contemporary filmmaking. However, as a sequel it often fails to hit the beats of the trilogy’s previous instalments, losing some of the emotional weight that Caesar and the rest of the apes held on the way.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2017
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As the apes suffer catastrophic losses, Caesar wrestles with his desire for revenge.
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Director: Matt Reeves

Writer: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson

Year: 2017

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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