War for the Planet of the Apes review: It's a soulful and hyper-real war film
Few franchise movies in the past decade or so - barring Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy - had moviegoers eagerly looking forward to visiting cinemas. But that changed this year with Spider-Man: Homecoming last week and now the latest Apes movie.
Director Matt Reeves has done what no one thought was possible - resurrected a tired franchise, for War for the Planet of the Apes builds on its predecessor with conviction.
Caesar (Andy Serkis) shines like no one else in the third of the reboot series.
Skipping the big explosions was a thoughtful decision, as the last two movies featured some epic battles between humans and apes. Sort of reminds one of The Revenant, as Caesar embarks upon his quest for revenge.
Reeves delivers a film with a lot of heart and soul, devoid of mindless action and explosion (here's looking at you Transformers) and uses VFX to make the film come alive.
The humans and apes are in a full, bloodied, open conflict making this a war movie. Caesar leads the ape community, residing in a forest, fending off an attack from the humans.
The humans, divided about how to handle the Simian Flu, reject the offer of a ceasefire in which the ape community will keep to themselves in the forest. Before the ape community can retreat to the 'promised' land, there is a violent attack from the humans, led by menacing shaved-head Colonel (Woody Harrelson), which leads to a tragic incident.
Fueled by a need for revenge, Caesar heads off on a mission - followed by his friends - to oust Colonel and get them to never come near the ape community again.
Reeves ups the ante in direction by producing a number of widescreen shots that are filled with beautiful war imagery.
These shots make the viewer feel like they're watching an epic, yet there is the calm of the apes trotting on horses with snow constantly falling on the beach.
When Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011, people were calling the transformation of the actors from human beings to life-like chimpanzees as 'groundbreaking'. Two movies later not a single person can question the visual effects that have gone into creating characters like Caesar and other Apes.
Where are the female apes?
The one problem that most viewers may have with War of the Planet of the Apes, or rather any of the Ape movies is the lack of female characters on screen, barring the handful.
While Reeves is very much committed to creating a world that is fantastical while staying within the realms of possibility, the world itself is very male-oriented. That could be said about many of the primate movies that Hollywood churns out.
Still, in the end, War of the Planets of the Apes, despite being heavy at times, is a light movie with a few action scenes that are enough to warrant calling it a 'war' movie. There's a lot of inspiration Reeves has taken from films of the past - Bridge of the River Kwai being one.
There is a brilliant scene where Maurice, the orangutan befriends a mute (suffering from the Simian Flu) young girl (Amiah Miller) and for a couple of minutes, you see them establishing their relationship wordlessly and in the most natural way possible. There is also the initial face off between Caesar and Colonel that elevates the movie to greatness.
While there are some portions that drag on, like the prison-break sequence, it's moments like these that give the movie its heart and soul and one doesn't even yearn for big explosive action. Serkis, as always, is a standout award-worthy performance and three movies in, deserve an Oscar nomination, if not the award itself.
While 3D can be avoided, the movie cannot. Rush to your nearest theatre now and see chimpanzees come to life in a war movie with a lot of soul.