War for the Planet of the Apes



It’s funny how history repeats itself: the deja-vu conversation that you swear you’ve had before, that New Year’s resolution you make every year that is constantly broken, or even going to see a film about apes where a couple talks all the way through.

You see, I had to have a brief look at one of my very first reviews (okay, more like sixth) of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes before starting here. It’s nice reminiscing about those formative blogging days until you die a little inside realising your writing really hasn’t improved over the last three years.

However, it appears that history will not repeat itself today. Maybe it was the people talking throughout, or that I’ve had two very positive reviews recently and I’m vying for something to rip apart, but War for the Planet of the Apes did not meet my high expectations.

Oh, and just as a guide, Rise is the first, Dawn is the second, and War is the third. I’m not too sure on the names either, but I dealt with that issue last time.

PLOT: Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still the leader of the apes in the (presumably) Muir Wood. However, after revealing he is alive to attacking humans, an assassination attempt sends Caesar on a quest to avenge the lost and the captured.

I wanted to briefly run through the previous films to better describe War‘s themes and aims. Rise was the set-up, explaining how apes first gained their freedom; it also explores the humanity of Caesar and the inhumanity that humans sometimes harbour. Dawn is a progression of that humanity forming in apes: it highlights the hate, love, and need for survival present in both species.

War signifies an end and new beginning, primarily focuses on the decay of the world, and the hopelessness of both the apes and humans’ positions. Ultimately, it does what it sets out to achieve, although part of me believes they went too far. During Dawn, the apes begin to grasp linguistics, but everyone apart from Caesar (and ‘Bad Ape’) seems to regress to sign language – it doesn’t quite work with the apes’ progression seen in the previous film. Not that there is anything wrong with this visually: the special effects in this movie are as spectacular as ever.

Best character ‘Bad Ape’.

Without trying to give too much away (although it’s implied in the trailer), Caesar undergoes a huge loss. While his attitude and ideals change drastically, understandably so, his main struggle is overshadowed by his doubts of becoming similar to Kobu (Dawn‘s antagonist who wanted a war between apes and humans). The connection makes sense, but there needed to be more linkage to Caesar’s loss.

Other characters were good enough. The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) was a solid villain, although I questioned his motives (and honestly, who could beat Gary Oldman from Dawn?). Nova (Amiah Miller) was… there. Sure, she had symbolic significance and performed her role well, but she was just along for the ride. By far, ‘Bad Ape’ was the best character solely he brought a little life to the desolate world War is set in.

Bad Ape: Human get sick. Ape get smart. Then human kill ape. But not me. I run.

It may appear that War isn’t too bad. And sure, I enjoyed the movie up to a point, that point being when Caesar enters The Colonel’s concentration camp. A lot of the pivotal moments for the characters happen outside the camp, (deaths of established characters and revelations of humanity fading from the world), so when half of the film takes place inside, most of the tension had died.

End this now.
End this now.

This section (and it was a large section) had the speed of Christmas traffic on the M25: the film came to a standstill. Caesar’s personal fight and the humans’ loss had to wait patiently as War unsuccessfully attempted to go through the motions of a PoW and escape film. I’m expecting a war, not an hour of war crimes and slow exposition. Like forgetting to take the gherkin out of your quarter pounder, the section left a bad taste in my mouth.

War has some lovely subtle symbolism running throughout, but slowly becomes disorientated as the film progresses. Compared to the previous two films, it doesn’t quite provide the powerful end to the trilogy that I was hoping for. That said, War brings Caesar’s story to a satisfactory conclusion that isn’t afraid of getting its hands dirty throughout his journey (until he gets to the camp, that is).

The Colonel: All of human history has lead to this moment. The irony is we created you. And nature has been punishing us ever since. This is our last stand. And if we lose... it will be a Planet of Apes.

I always get scared reviewing a film poorly that has good reviews (and vice versa) because I always think I’ve missed something. Comment below if you agree or disagree with the Pick!

Reviews will now be published every week, 7 pm on Wednesdays and the odd post on Sundays that may or may not be review-related. I’m working on some other pleasant surprises, but I’m not working on those for now.