Sunday, 16 July 2017

War of the Planet of the Apes (2017) - Film Review


*Originally written July 16th, 2017*

"Caesar is home"

War for the Planet of the Apes is not exactly what I expected, or even wanted from the third entry in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, but is all the more better for it. While I expected a big war epic between apes and humans, what I got was something much more quiet, emotional and compelling, and it's also one of the best films of the year in an already incredible year for cinema.

War of the Apes takes place a few years after the events of Dawn and pits Caesar (Andy Serkis) in a personal battle against a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) after he experiences devestating losses at the hands of the colonel.

This film is not what I expected at all. It's a much more personal and smaller film than the trailer and title led you to believe. There's not even a lot of action in this 140 minute film (There are two set-pieces that open and end the film), what we get instead is a brutal, harrowing and emotional end to Caesar's story. I won't spoil it, but War seems like a perfect place to end Caesar's journey we've followed since 2011.

Andy Serkis once again tops himself as he gives an Oscar worthy motion capture performance, there are so many subtle touches to Serkis' perfomance, he really brings this CGI creature to life, making him a more compelling protagonist than most blockbusters today. He is helped to no end by some of the best visual effects put on screen today.

The CGI and motion capture work here is some of the most realistic and beautiful looking imagery put to life. Not a single moment of CGI looked hokey or unconvinving. It truly is an astonishing landmark in how far technology has come in cinema. The film is gorgeous in terms of cinematography too, there are some incredible shots, making using of some stunning landscape shots of this now mostly abandoned world taken over by nature. There is also some fantastic visual references to war imagery and other war films (Especially Apocalypse Now).

The Apes films are always strongest when they focus on the apes rather than the humans, but Woody Harrelson's Colonel is a very strong protagonist with a compelling backstory. Harrelson's always a fantastic actor, I just wish his bad guy here had more screen-time, despite the fact we got some moments of him truly being evil.

This is a dark, violent and relentlessly bleak film (I really don't reccomend this for kids), but there are moments of levity in the new ape in the mix named 'Bad Ape'. He was comic-relief, which worried me for the most part, but he fit in fine with his sad backstory, while still managing to be funny without breaking the film tonally.

I said there isn't much action in War of the Apes, but that's a good thing. It made the action so much more impactful when it built to it. From the opening assault to the final prison escape, the action has weight and consequence that impact the characters and events, making way for an emotionally devestating finale that was as cathartic as it was thrilling.

As a trilogy ender, this really does feel like a perfect place to end the series, even if it does plant some of the seeds of the films future, and leading closer to the events of the original 1968 film, but for Caesar's story? Stop here. They've managed to make one of the best trilogies in recent memory. It's rare that a trilogy gets better with every film, but the modern Apes series has managed it.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a powerful, rich and emotional end to Caesar's story and one of the best trilogy enders of all-time and one of the best films of the year.

10/10 Dans

War for the Planet of the Apes is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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