Newly announced director of ‘The Batman’ Matt Reeves returns to the Apes franchise for the second time to direct sequel ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’. His previous film in the series, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, remains one of the strongest action films of this decade and if ‘War’ was to be anything close to the standard of that audiences have cause to be very excited indeed. The events of this film take place two years after ‘Dawn’ with the apes & humans in the middle of war.
Whilst this is most definitely a summer blockbuster, and a very good one at that, don’t be expecting ‘War’ to be fun in the way that ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ or ‘Baby Driver’ is. Appropriately so this film is very bleak but this tone fits perfectly with the narrative. The length of the film contributes to this too, allowing the story to be told without being rushed. This makes the film feel incredibly epic, in a way that hasn’t been witnessed on the big screen for some time now. All of the elements within this powerful narrative build steadily as the film progresses. The action, drama & emotion all peak within the finale creating this perfect cinematic journey for both the characters & audiences. Despite the often cold tone present there was a small injection of comedy in sections to the film too. There was risk of this feeling misplaced in the grander context of the movie but it’s handled very well and succeeds in keeping the audience drawn in and entertained.
The stunning results achieved with motion capture in the previous two films are wonderfully reproduced once more for this third installment. The way in which these characters are brought to life using effects is nothing short of masterful, this trilogy will always be the prime example of how to use these for maximum impact. ‘War’ is the first film that doesn’t feature a typical human protagonist to accompany the apes in their struggle. Where James Franco & Jason Clarke filled this role before here this position lies vacant. At first I though this might be an issue but thanks to the writing and the performances from Andy Serkis and the other motion capture actors this wasn’t a problem at all. Woody Harrelson takes up the villainous duties here, doing so with what he makes appear like considerable ease. There was potential here for him to really ham it up, which I don’t think would haven been right for this film. Instead he stays grounded and sells his motivations well making for an incredibly interesting antagonist for Caesar and the apes. My only issue in terms of characters, and the film as a whole actually, was that in a few instances I felt a little more development was needed. This was only the case with secondary characters but nonetheless with a little more focus on these roles the narrative could have been made even richer.
Regardless of this ‘War of the Planet of the Apes’ is an example of some of the finest film-making & story-telling present in cinema today. It’s success has spawned one of the greatest trilogies of all time, but like all good trilogies it can also stand on it’s own two feet. With remarkable effects, fascinating characters and a narrative momentum that does nothing but increase as the running time goes on ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is a real cinematic event not to be missed.
Rating – 9/10
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