If your friends are constantly bitching about how movies use too much CGI then point them to “War for the Planet of the Apes.” It has some of the most impressive CGI work in a film to date. I still can’t believe I sat there for over two hours watching computer generated apes and laughed, cried, and had an unbelievably thrilling time. One part revenge thriller, one part POW drama, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is a thrilling spectacle for the eyes and ears. The final (?) entry in this “Planet of the Apes” prequel series ends on a total high note and, like the apes onscreen, has evolved into an intelligent and fascinating allegory about the dangers of technology all wrapped in summer blockbuster fun.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was a terrific jumping off point for this trilogy and set the pace for what has become such a fascinating series to see evolve. In that film we see how Caesar, a chimp that has gained massive intelligence to the point where he can actually speak, lead various apes on a quest to take over the world (or at least initially San Francisco). The series took a darker, more depressing turn with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” a perfectly fine film that to me felt less engaging than the first entry. It was with this hesitancy that I entered this third film but was completely blown away.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” finds Caesar in hiding as a group of human soldiers are hot on his trail. While Caesar is ready to end the fighting he’s drawn back into the conflict after a special team infiltrates the apes’ home killing several members of Caesar’s family. Hell-bent on revenge Caesar sends the surviving clan of apes ahead to a safe location while he tries to locate the head of the human army. That would be “the Colonel” played by Woody Harrelson. Along the way Caesar and his close group find an orphan human girl who can’t speak, who they take along. Eventually when they find the Colonel’s base they find a prison filled with apes being put to manual labor. It soon becomes one of the most thrilling prison escape movies since “The Great Escape” or at least “Chicken Run.”
First things first, the special effects here are mind-blowingly amazing. As has always been the case in this series. All the apes are CGI and they looks completely realistic. Especially the orangutan Maurice who I refuse to believe was created on a computer. The actors who brought the apes to life are fantastic as well and really add to the realism. Andy Serkis is great as Caesar or course and the other standout was Steve Zahn as “Bad Ape” who completely stole the film. Second, the script from Mark Bomback and co-writer Matt Reeves (who also directed) is sensational. The story was completely fascinating this time around and Reeves’ direction is impeccable. Third, I finally found a Michael Giacchino score to be engaging and memorable. A lot of the percussion recalled the original Jerry Goldsmith score to the original “Planet of the Apes.”
Enough good things cannot be said about “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Even with a run-time well over two hours I was completely hooked to the screen. I couldn’t believe the emotional connection I felt to these pixelated characters. I’ve really enjoyed watching this franchise develop and it’s been a completely rewarding experience every with every new film. GRADE: A-