War for the Planet of the Apes is the third installment in the reboot series of the iconic franchise. The first entry in the trilogy, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was a surprisingly good film that managed to be more than just standard blockbuster fare, but it wasn’t until its sequel, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, that the franchise upped the ante by introducing extremely thought-provoking themes and an emotionally heavy plot. War manages to build even more upon the tone and themes introduced in the previous entries and musters up a film truly worthy of the praise that it is sure to receive.
Directed by Matt Reeves, the film follows the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes after the U.S. military was called to fight a tribe of genetically advanced apes lead by Caesar (Andy Serkis). Through a series of events, Caesar gives up his slightly pacifistic morals in favor of revenge against The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a human solider who is determined to put an end to Caesar and his tribe. Caesar embarks on an odyssey with loyal friends, orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary), and gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Along the way, they meet a young mute girl (Amiah Miller) and another chimpanzee named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). Caesar and the Colonel both have their own agenda, but when you peel back the surface, you’ll find that their primary goal is the same; Survive.
Andy Serkis gives a performance that is definitely worthy of on Oscar Nomination. Although Caesar is CGI, the advancement in motion capture technology has allowed the character to exhibit Serkis’s expressions in such fine detail, that at times he seems more real than the human actors. Serkis’s ability to convey such raw emotion and intensity in his performance is so remarkable, it rivals the finest performances in past cinema.
Woody Harrelson’s performance is also extremely well done, and his role as the main villain not only accents and already great film, but also manages to enhance the experience. The Colonel is not strictly an evil man, in fact, he’s a tragic villain whose purpose is so justified that it’s hard to blame him for his actions. Harrelson’s performance serves as the perfect cessation to villains of the previous films and much like Serkis, deserves all the praise that the audience can give.
As far as the supporting cast goes, Steve Zahn deserves recognition for his performance as Bad Ape. Bad Ape is an unexpected delight that brings much needed comic relief that audiences are sure to enjoy. The inclusion of the young girl was also a welcomed addition as she was able to allow Caesar’s character to grow even more, crafting an even greater protagonist.
Perhaps the most important element to take away from this film are its underlying themes and heavy symbolism. At times, the film feels like a Shakespearian tragedy, at other times it alludes to Moses and Christ, and there are even some aspects that can be interpreted as being referential to recent political events. Morality is a featured theme throughout the film, and with that comes thoughts that may leave the audience pondering their own sense of ethics. Of course, the audience will only take away what they allow themselves to in this film, but it’s easy to say that there is plenty of material to dwell on after the credits roll.
It’s not often that a film trilogy is consistently excellent, and it’s even more rare for the sequels to continuously improve upon the predecessors. Planet of the Apes has proven that it is quite capable of accomplishing this feat. With excellent directing, writing, and an incomparable performance from Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes manages to bring a powerfully emotional and utterly fantastic conclusion to one of the most extraordinary trilogies of the new decade.