War for the Planet of the Apes is the highly anticipated conclusion to the Planet of the Apes trilogy.
The film takes place a few years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his family have been forced into a devastating war with a ruthless military Colonel. As the apes continue to suffer heavy losses, Caesar goes on a dangerous quest to avenge his kind, while wrestling with his more sinister instincts in the process.
War for the Planet of the Apes took a much different perspective than the previous two films by focusing almost entirely on the character of Caesar. This, I feel, comes with a whole host of advantages and disadvantages.
I find Caesar to be a vastly entertaining protagonist, and having the plot focused on him allowed us to delve even deeper into his character. We see that Caesar is haunted by his past, and watch him continuously seep into a darker place as everything he loves is stripped away from him.
Putting less of an emphasis on the human characters also gives way to a lot of powerful visual acting. Since most of the apes can’t talk, we are forced to rely on their facial expressions and body language to carry the story, and to great success.
The most disappointing aspect of the film (and a major disadvantage of focusing entirely on Caesar) was that it lacked a strong human-ape dynamic. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the audience was introduced to plenty of bad apes and good apes, as well as bad humans and good humans. This made for a morally complicated situation for the viewer, with many conflicting ideologies that make it hard to know who to support.
War for the Planet of the Apes felt like a huge step down from this. The humans are bad and the apes are good, and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. Even the evil military Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson) is your basic bad guy, with the obligatory sad backstory to get the viewer to sympathize with his position. The audience is never given anything to mull over regarding the already established, complex morals of Planet of the Apes.
Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t the most compelling title in the series, but it still stands as a pretty entertaining flick. Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar is beyond captivating, and watching his character arc come full circle at the end was wonderful. The film also utilized the wintry location well, which coupled nicely with great cinematography, camera work, and beautiful visual storytelling. There’s an abundance of very emotional scenes throughout the film that are extremely effective, even if they’re sometimes drawn-out too long.
However, the film ultimately could’ve stood for more than it did, and wasn’t as morally complex as many individuals would have you believe. Instead of taking an in-depth look at the various ideologies and morals that exist in this series, War for the Planet of the Apes went for an overly simplified and watered down plot. Leaving very little to contemplate after you exit the theater.
The Verdict: B-