Looking Back at 2010s Films: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

22 Nov

By Tanner Smith

In 2011, we had a surprise hit with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a sort-of prequel (kind of a reboot) to how the “Planet of the Apes” of its popular film series came to be. I certainly didn’t need this “sort-of prequel” but I was very surprised at how interesting and fresh it turned out to be. In 2014, we got a sequel: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a darker, more compelling man-versus-ape story than I ever would have anticipated. Then, in 2017, we got a concluding chapter for this “Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy.” “War for the Planet of the Apes.” It seemed to be building up to something, which should be obvious to us all that it doesn’t end well for mankind. From “rise” to “dawn” to “war”…let’s see what “War for the Planet of the Apes” has for us…

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is, in my opinion, the best “Planet of the Apes” movie ever made, maybe even better than the 1968 classic that started it all.

Talk about saving the best for last. (I don’t think there’s anywhere else for this franchise to go after this, so that’s a high compliment.)

This is a hell of a film. It’s powerful. It’s gripping. It’s complex. It’s brutal. it’s heartbreaking. It’s everything I didn’t know a “Planet of the Apes” movie could be. It even made me forget about how great “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was, because this one topped that!

The story, told from the apes’ perspective, involves Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his army of apes still having to fend for themselves against human soldiers who want to hunt and kill them. Caesar has tried time and time again to have peaceful coexistence between humans and apes, but the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) wants nothing more than to wipe every single last one of them out. Seeing no other alternative, Caesar embarks on a suicide mission to track down and kill the Colonel.

As the title suggests, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is building up to the end-all of one final battle between man and ape. But director Matt Reeves (who also directed “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) has something more on his mind, such as what it all means for both man and ape. The evils and casualties of war. The question as to whom is the true animal. Racism allegories. What it means to exact revenge. The sacrifices that are made. And so on. This doesn’t feel like a mere “Planet of the Apes” movie; it feels like a genuine war movie!

And it’s all done RIGHT. When the action kicks in, it’s exciting. When the drama settles in, it’s very moving. When characters are allowed to sit and discuss a few things, it means something. Even its comic relief, a scared, abused ape named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) whom Caesar and his crew come across, is done exactly right. In any other movie, this would have been akin to Jar Jar Binks.

The film can also take some time out to warm your heart. One of Caesar’s partners is Maurice (Karin Konoval), a wise orangutan who always has the right answers for Caesar. Along the way, Caesar and co. encounter a young mute girl (one of the wild humans they come across), and Maurice is the one to take care of her during the journey. I loved Maurice in the previous “Planet of the Apes” film, and seeing him care for this little girl melted my heart.

Notice how so far, I’ve talked so much about every other aspect that makes this film successful except for the effects factor? Well, how do the apes look? How do you make it credible? Well…if I thought they were put to great use in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” then they’re put to SPECTACULAR use in “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Caesar, Maurice, Bad Ape, every one of the “apes” look amazingly REAL. It’s the best motion-capture work I’ve ever seen in a film. And it was so wonderfully done that I wanted Andy Serkis to get an Oscar nomination just for bringing Caesar to life with much expression and dignity. How often do you see a bunch of CG creations and NOT notice that it’s computers at the source of them? It’s outstanding for all the right reasons.

I prayed for this one to win Best Visual Effects at the Oscars. (I didn’t take into account the first-rate effects of “Blade Runner 2049.”)

Where CAN the “Planet of the Apes” franchise go from here? It’s hard to tell. Maybe…remake 1968’s “Planet of the Apes,” with the updated technology? I don’t know. But I guess I’d be curious to find out if there IS something planned.

One Response to “Looking Back at 2010s Films: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Prepping for My Top 20 Films of the 2010s | Smith's Verdict - November 26, 2019

    […] Endgame,” “Black Panther,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “The Hunger Games: Catching […]

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