The leader of the apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis), and his ape family, are forced into a brutal battle with an army of humans, headed by the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer a crippling defeat, Caesar fights with his inner demons and goes on a quest of self-discovery and a revenge mission to avenge his ape kin. As this journey finally brings Caesar into Colonel’s line of sight, the two leaders are pitted against one another in a grand conflict that will determine the fate of both of their species. Will humanity continue to rule, or will the Earth become a planet of apes?
War continues to improve the quality of CGI that Dawn did on the back of Rise. The level of prowess in the construction of the Apes is high, but also much of the surroundings must be commended too. It’s easy to forget that we’re watching the likes of Steven Zahn (Captain Fantastic), Andy Serkis (King Kong) and Toby Kebbell (Black Mirror) as motion capture characters and not real-life apes on screen. No, this is not Steve Backshall on his quest through the jungle on Deadly 60, but it is epic in the high skill of the acting talent involved, no matter if their species.
Co-written and directed by Matt Reeves, the word floating about describing War for the Planet of the Apes is “subtle”. Retrospectively, I don’t think it is that subtle at all. Watching movies like Platoon, Apocalypse Now! or even The Deer Hunter, viewers will notice that War’s opening scenes are reminiscent of the Vietnam War with that beautiful imagery. I’m no fan of the war genre, but every so often a Platoon comes along. And War for the Planet of the Apes respects the past but embraces the future in this regard. And unto that, I say to Matt Reeves and co, great job indeed.
After the real war in Dawn, I expected a more low-key war in this film. It’s a battle of beliefs, a battle of ideologies and a battle of the mind that incorporates the symbol of sacrifice. It maybe a little cliché but it’s not worth complaining about. War does well in making viewers sympathise with oppressed peoples, or should I say apes? And it succeeds in making viewers see humanity in an honest light. We’re the only species on Earth that doesn’t kill to survive. We kill because we can, and through Colonel (Harrelson), we are given a snapshot of this very prevalent ideology.
Some call this film racist, I call it honest. I don’t believe it’s a depiction of white racism, rather a depiction of human discrimination on those we think lesser than ourselves. Apes are taking the place of the oppressed. It’s not a white thing, it’s a human thing. Whether we’re talking about the slave trade or German concentration camps during World War Two, War is a reflection on human history and how we treat others, as well being an apt end to a trilogy of films that act as a call to action for humanity. Is this who we really are? And is this what we want humanity’s legacy to be?
The aesthetics of this movie are great. The score by Michael Giacchino (Doctor Strange) fits and is like being hit for six whilst the story unfolds onscreen. Whilst he does his thing, we are witness to an onslaught of beautiful images but also many grotesque ones that continue to give meaning to humanity. Why are we the only species on earth that doesn’t kill to survive? “We are not savages, apes fight only to survive” says Caesar. What do humans fight for? Petty disputes over sand, oil, material wealth and when one person believes something different to another AKA religion.
Oh, how humanity has fallen. Even when we are nearly extinct, we still think we’ve won… all because of our guns. Humanity’s arrogance is out in full force in War, as well as the social fictions / social realities, like in Dawn and Rise before it. From the cast to the motion capture to the performances, cinematography and musical score, War for the Planet of the Apes is a worthy end to one of the greatest blockbuster trilogies to ever grace our screens.