July 10, 2017

CINEMA | 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Triumphs

"We are not savages. Apes fight only to survive."
Andy Serkis Matt Reeves | War for the Planet of the Apes

It's remarkable how truly human a film about talking apes is capable of being. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves has crafted the third Planet of the Apes film into a devastatingly emotional "human" drama about family, survival, and the primal act of war. War for the Planet of the Apes is a fitting closing chapter to the prequel/reboot trilogy with motion-capture actor Andy Serkis fully paying off his ascendant arc as Caesar, leader of the apes.

The visuals and special effects work looks near flawless and completely real within the context of Reeves' story co-written with Mark Bomback. It addresses and caps off the dire consequences of previous films where Caesar confronted the actions within his own species while trying to control the outbreak of war against the remaining human survivors after the simian flu. War's survivalist tones and visceral revenge storyline are completely engrossing and drive the dark action forward in epic fashion.

A very frightening Woody Harrelson (the Colonel) plays essentially the only speaking human role of any substance (which is just fine). His arc as a fanatical rogue military leader is complex and explores the reasons for justifying any act of war. Newcomer Amiah Miller plays Nova, an orphan child mute, whom the apes adopt as their sidekick. She plays a key role in moving the human/ape story along as a human surrogate for the audience.

Andy Serkis Woody Harrelson Matt Reeves | War for the Planet of the Apes

The actors portraying apes continue a string of impressive motion-capture work. Steve Zahn as "Bad Ape" enters as new character raised outside of Caesar's group. He serves as a fun comic relief and offers an outsider's perspective on the human/ape war brewing. Everyone else's motion-capture performances are so seamless and well integrated, it's difficult to even comment on their natural feeling portrayals.

Enough cannot be said about composer Michael Giacchino's haunting and irreverent musical score that perfectly notes every frame and scene with minimal yet evocative tones throughout while ratcheting up the despair and suspense when needed.

Reeves and Serkis show their mastery of the blockbuster storytelling form by crafting such an epic drama all still within the context of this franchise. The Apes story is so completely realized and haunting while wearing its searing sense of dread proudly and transforming it into highly compelling mainstream entertainment. War for the Planet of the Apes is high achievement in big budget Hollywood genre filmmaking of this scale and closes out the trilogy more than fittingly.

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