War for the Planet of the Apes
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Synopsis: Tracked to their secret safe haven, Caesar and his apes are attacked by a human strike force. In the aftermath Caesar embarks on a journey of revenge.
Review: There’s something about “War for the Planet of the Apes” that feels Biblical in scope. Caesar was always set up to be a Moses, a leader who would take his persecuted people to a long-sought promised land. In this, the third installment in the revisited universe, we see Caesar challenge his own ideology of peaceful resistance. He looks into the metaphorical mirror and sees Koba, his old nemesis, looking back at him. The stakes are high, but they are also deeply personal.
Andy Serkis, the performer behind the digital Caesar, offers a fantastic performance as an ape going through a personal crisis. I don’t know if Serkis will be rewarded at any point with an Oscar or Golden Globe for his amazing work, but he certainly deserves to. The depth of emotion that Serkis and the visual effects team are able to give Caesar is revelatory.
There is an appropriate darkness that hangs over “War for the Planet of the Apes.” This is not a film that glorifies war; it is a condemnation of it. The definition of what is humane and what is inhumane has been a centerpiece to the modern franchise. That’s not to say that the film is without its funny or thrilling moments. To offer a bit of levity we have Bad Ape, a rather comical chimpanzee with a distinct personality provided by Steve Zahn. This helps to break up what might otherwise have been a far too dour experience. As it stands, co-writer/director Matt Reeves has crafted a summer blockbuster that is as entertaining as it is meaningful.