War for the Planet of the Apes
I am not usually an avid follower of any blockbuster but with this reboot series of Planet of the Apes I have seen every single instalment so far and like its predecessors, I found War for the Planet of the Apes an exceptional and enthralling filmic effort. This is director Matt Reeves' (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) second foray into this dystopian, desolate world of apes and what a masterpiece he has created. Reeves refreshingly tells the story through the apes' perspective and by doing so highlights the cruelty of humans.
This third instalment reacquaints us with Caesar (Andy Serkis) who we first met in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as the baby of lab chimpanzee Bright Eyes who was given an anti-viral drug for curing Alzheimer's. The side effect of which was the increasing of Ape intelligence that also acted like a vaccine against a pending human ravaging virus. This mutation was passed onto Caesar who now possesses a high level of intelligence and the ability of speaking as the world descends into chaos as humanity is dying whilst ape numbers are increasing. The film starts two years after Dawn of the Planet of Apes when Caesar defeated a traitorous lieutenant Koba (Toby Kebbell), but is still reluctantly engaged in a war with the humans; watching his congress slowly diminish in numbers. Caesar wants to relocate the remaining ape colony to a safer territory - the Promised Land - however, not before The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his troops reach them first; killing and imprisoning them in his army base, forcing them to build a wall to protect them against other apes but also another strand of mute humans, a new race we are subtlety introduced to.
Man’s insistence on war and domination starts to chip away at Caesar; who started as a peaceful warrior now looks beaten and bitter, with intense newfound feelings of revenge and retribution. In a bid to save his congress he gets himself captured by the Colonel and then, with the help of small group of apes, (his advisors) manages to break free and release all the other apes. Taken over by anger and with the realisation that humans will never cease their evil pursuit over the apes, Caesar seeks to kill the Colonel and destroy the army base.
Aesthetically, the film occupies a very masculine space, with an overall look that is slick, vivid, clear and expansive. The CGI is truly remarkable, exceeding all expectations. The apes' appearance and mannerisms look incredibly real. It’s all put together so seamlessly, there isn’t a glitch or a mishap or any moment where it looks simulated. The cavernous living spaces of the apes, the harshness of the snowy winter and the army base lack any bright colours; it all looks rather bleak perhaps to symbolise Caesar’s mental state.
The narrative, if simple, is effective in making the film easy to follow but keeping the viewer fully engaged. The focus is primarily on the acting, particularly on the apes; which is unusual for any other CGI heavy film. The apes are instantly likeable; from the adorable baby chimps to the endearing Maurice (Karin Konoval) Caesar’s advisor, a wise and benevolent Bornean Orangutan. Andy Serkis is outstanding as Caesar; he continues to persuasively presents a convincing character that is unique in the way that he balances primate and human behaviour. Serkis and motion capture technology go hand-in-hand these days and are still as impressive than ever. Woody Harrelson is also noteworthy as The Colonel which on face value could have been a one-note villain to play but he excels.
There are many themes coursing through the film such as race, religion, animal rights, and war. One reading questions what draws people to violence. What made peace-loving Caesar to seek retribution? Were The Colonel’s cruel intentions based on personal circumstances? Or is the entire film based around the nature vs. nurture argument. It is perhaps unclear where things will go now - will we get a fourth instalment? Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see the trilogy draw to a close and convey a more intelligent and realistically human outcome compared to the usual effects-driven blockbuster fare.