War for the Planet of the Apes proves to be the final nail in the coffin for human kind. Sure, that’s a horrible thing for us as a species, but it is a terrific thing for audiences in cinemas this summer — as there will likely not be anything better to hit screens the rest of the warmer months.
By the time the third chapter in the prequel series rolls its credits, it achieves a milestone on several levels.
First, we can say that the three films — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes — can safetly be considered one of the most triumphant trilogies to ever grace the silver screen. Also, what Andy Serkis achieved portraying the simian Caesar — born in a lab and destined for ruling the apes when they are the last species left to rule the earth — is especially historic. Seriously, he deserves an Academy Award for the work he does in this trilogy. That is especially true with this final film. Serkis’ pained, but powerful, performance will not go down as simply one of the best of the year. It is one for the ages.
Matt Reeves is back in the director’s chair for the second Apes film in a row and his touch is spot-on for an emotionally driven series of films that culminates with War for the Planet of the Apes in a manner so intriguing, emotionally deep, heart-poundingly thrilling and wholly and utterly satisfying in every way.
As the film commences, it finds Caesar a wanted man, hiding out with his growing clan in the woods of America’s western coast. He is being hunted, in particular, by a man who simply goes by the name of Colonel (Woody Harrelson). He has a garrison of soldiers whose entire mission is to find Caesar and destroy everything he is, stands for and cares about. When their two paths finally do collide, it catapults the duo into a showdown that will find only one species flourishing and the other, a footnote in history.
Reeves’ triumph painfully illustrates how similar our two species are, and how if common ground could have been found, peaceful coexistence would have prevailed. Yet, with one of the two species truly being more savage than the other (one guess!), it becomes painfully clear that this War is to the death.
That point is particularly illustrated by the introduction of the character of Nova (Amiah Miller), who many fans of the franchise know is a direct link to the iconic series that starred Charlton Heston. How the apes — particularly Caesar and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) — are with her, the more the audience collectively not only gets behind the apes to win this fight, but we are emotionally invested in their success. It is a brilliant stroke of storytelling to bring in the young girl. Nova cannot speak and the way she, Caesar and the rest of the apes communicate and connect is truly touching. Another character that brings the viewer’s hearts onto the frontlines of this War is Steve Zahn’s mo-cap debut as Bad Ape. He is integral to the curtain clearly closing on the series and does so with his performance in a manner that brings equal parts delightful humor, an utterly endearing personality and crafting a character who is commandingly ever-present. If Serkis established the envelope and pushed it to the edge, Zahn worked his mo-cap coattails like a true prodigy mirroring the master.
There is a mirror to society element that is terribly timely. With our continued disregard to the signals Mother Nature is giving us that she is not well, each year our ignorance to her plight and failure to act on her cries for help have started an environmental doomsday clock ticking. War for the Planet of the Apes is certainly a lesson that when it comes to that battle, Mother Nature will always win… and handedly. History is littered with these lessons, yet the overall common thought is that each time humans battle nature that this time, just perhaps, we might win. Of course, the film is fiction. But one thing that has always permeated the series, that is an enormous appeal to many, is its firm resolve that when it comes to that tête-à-tête, the fight was decided before it began.
Something filmmakers have done as well with War for the Planet of the Apes is given us a story of hope. It mirrors Moses’ journey in many ways. Caesar is essentially the man who led his people out of slavery, through a desert of despair and assures them of the promise that there is a safe passage into the promise land.
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War for the Planet of the Apes is one of our Top 10 of 2017 (so far). Who else made the list?