War for the Plant of the Apes: a spoiler-free review
After Dawn and Rise we arrive at War of the Planet of the Apes or WOTPOTA for short!
I have to admit, I was ambivalent about this third instalment of the Apes trilogy. It's billed as the final however there are enough unresolved issues at the end to probably warrant a fourth. Cornelius's story anyone?
WOTPOTA is directed by Matt Reeves who I first came across in the 2010 US adaption Let me in. It was a poor Americanisation of an excellent film by Thomas Alfredson called Let The Right One In. If you have never seen the 2009 original, I urge you to check it out. Not expecting much from Matt Reeves I was very pleasantly surprised by WOTPOTA.
Andy Serkis once again elevates the art of motion-capture performances to a new height. He again plays Caesar, the leader of the apes, a little oder now and with familial responsibilities, including a young son named Cornelius. Woody Harrelson plays the main protagonist simply known as "The Colonel".
So let me address "the war". If you saw the trailer and were expecting a Battle for Helm's Deep encounter between humans and apes, then you will be disappointed, sorely disappointed. I think this accounts for some of the poor reviews this film is getting. For me it is not deserved. The title "war" is a misnomer. There is no war and there is no victor. What we get is an introspection as Caesar struggles to overcome his hate and his thirst for violence. Without spoilers, the scene is set early on as to why Caesar hates the Colonel. What follows is a physical and emotional journey with images of concentration camps and brutality. The apes crucified on x-shaped crosses has echoes of the markers used to deter apes from entering The Forbidden Zone from the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell.
Steve Zahn plays an ape who calls himself "Bad Ape". He is the other stand-out performer in the film. He initially provides some expositions but rapidly becomes the comic relief in what is a grim film. It is a welcome relief with many old gags rolled out including using binoculars the wrong way around!
Woody Harrelson plays an army colonel hell-bent on wiping out the apes. We are told (in an unresolved plot point) that the other human armies disagree with him, resulting in the final action sequence in ActIII. Harrelson's end is sign-posted along the way as we are told about the change in the original simian flu and how it now affects humans. THe introduction of Amiah Miller as Nova (played by Linda Harrison in the 1968 original) leaves more threads open for a fourth film in this reboot series.
All in all WOTPOTA exceeded my expectations. The motion capture performances and the CGI are simply breath-taking, transporting you in to a fully realised, believable world. I liked Dawn, was so-so on Rise. This third episode is the best of the trilogy. If they continue at this standard I welcome the fourth.