Thursday, May 9, 2024

Review: "WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES" Gets Personal

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 of 2024 (No. 1966) by Leroy Douresseaux

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Running time:  140 minutes (2 hours, 20 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
DIRECTOR:  Matt Reeves
WRITERS:  Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback (based upon characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver)
PRODUCERS:  Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Michael Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  William Hoy and Stan Salfas
COMPOSER:  Michael Giacchino
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, and Amiah Miller

War for the Planet of the Apes is a 2017 American science fiction film and military drama directed by Matt Reeves.  It is a direct sequel to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and is also the third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot film series.

It is the ninth entry in the overall Planet of the Apes film series, which began as an adaptation of the 1963 French science fiction novel, La plan├Ęte des singes, by Pierre Boulle.  In War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar goes on a quest for revenge as a mentally unstable military leader escalates the war between apes and humans.

Fifteen years earlier, the birth of “The Simian Flu” pandemic (as seen in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes) proved deadly to humans.  The flu reduced the worldwide human population, and only 1 in 500 humans (.20 percent) are genetically immune to it.  Human civilization has been destroyed after societal collapse.  Five years earlier, the apes of the Muir Woods National Monument colony, led by the chimpanzee, Caesar (Andy Serkis), clashed with the humans living in the ruins of San Francisco (as seen in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).  The humans contacted the last remaining U.S. Army unit.

As War for the Planet of the Apes opens, “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson), a ruthless leader of a paramilitary faction, has been hunting Caesar, whom he calls “Kong,” and his ape colony in the two years following the battle in the ruins of San Francisco.  The colony is betrayed by turncoat apes that the humans call “donkeys,” and tragedy strikes close to Caesar.  He sets his colony on a journey to reach a recently discovered oasis, while he begins his mythic quest for revenge.

Caesar's lieutenants:  Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Maurice (Karin Konoval), and Rocket (Terry Notary) insist on accompanying him.  Along the way, they meet a mute human girl (Amiah Miller) and a lonely chimpanzee who can speak and calls himself “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn).  Will Caesar's quest, however, endanger all his people instead of saving them?  And is he dangerously ignorant of the true nature of the conflicts within the remaining groups of humans?

I have been a fan of the Planet of the Apes film ever since I saw the original film, Planet of the Apes (1968), back in the day when CBS broadcast it on a regular basis.  Its sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), thrilled and chilled me.  I also enjoyed Tim Burton's 2001 Planet of the Apes, a remake and re-imagining of the original film

In preparation for the new film in the franchise, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024), I decided to review the two films in the reboot franchise that I had not seen, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes.  I have previously seen and reviewed Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

I found Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to be a really entertaining film, with its director Matt Reeves spearheading a pulpy, post-apocalyptic drama that thrives on inter-tribal conflict.  However, I didn't find Dawn's drama to be quite as substantive as its predecessor, mainly because this film focuses so much on the apes that the film glosses over the human characters that have the most potential.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, it is much the same, but this film is the pinnacle of the first three films in ape acting via motion-capture and voice performances.  Here, Reeves wrings much more emotion from the characters, story, and settings.  Andy Serkis hits the heights as Caesar, his best performance of the first three films.  There are also numerous other fine supporting ape performances.  Through these characters, Reeves presents a film in which the emotion is raw and real and drives the drama to be more powerful than even this film's best action scenes.

On the other hand, there is only one exceptional human character, that would be the mute orphan girl, and Amiah Miller gives an exceptional physical performance as the child.  Using facial expressions and hand movements, she gives the girl such personality that the audience will come to buy her as a legitimate member of Caesar's tribe rather than as a random human.  Woody Harrelson has played so many kooky characters, and The Colonel is not one of the better ones.  It is as if Harrelson has done the crazy dude thing so much that he didn't know where to take that kind of character for this film.

War for the Planet of the Apes improves on the plots, characters, elements and ideas introduced in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  It is a fine end to what we might call “the Caesar trilogy.”  Dear readers, you can't go forward in the Planet of the Apes franchise without seeing War for the Planet of the Apes.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, May 9, 2024

2018 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, and Joel Whist)

2015 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination:  “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Erik Winquist, and Joel Whist)

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