A Losing Battle?
♦Tripwire Editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS grabbed his bananas and perfected his swinging technique and reviewed the third in the Planet of The Apes reboot series, War For The Planet of The Apes. Warning: A few spoilers ahead…
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
When Rise of The Planet Of The Apes came out back in 2011, people still remembered the horror that Tim Burton unleashed with his misguided remake Planet Of The Apes in 2001, even a decade on. But Rise of The Planet of The Apes was a clever and inventive new spin on the 1970s classic sci fi movie series with director Rupert Wyatt controlling the impressive cast well and Andy Serkis yet again showed that he is the master of the nuanced motion capture expression. It did well and three years later, we had Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, which had a new director in the shape of Matt Reeves but just like its progenitor, it found an intelligent take on the apes taking over the planet concept, asking some interesting questions of its audience and Serkis dominated the screen while his Caesar was on it. So three years later, we have War For The Planet Of The Apes, with Reeves back as director, Serkis present again as ape leader Caesar and with new additions Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) and crazy Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson) embroiled in a vicious war between ape and man. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Colonel is a nod to Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, a military figure who has gone native and now sits as a rogue figure isolated from the rest of humanity. The third film also introduces the concept of Caesar as a messiah-like Jesus presence, there to find safety for his people. The virus from the first film is something that does play a part here too.
There is a problem with War For The Planet Of The Apes. It begins strongly enough with something that happens which causes Caesar to seek his revenge against the Colonel but as it progresses, the war aspect becomes less and less important. It doesn’t really know what sort of film it wants to be and so this leads to a lack of cohesion. Serkis is good as ever and Harrelson makes for a suitably deranged villain but the subtlety that we had in the first and second films appears to have been jettisoned.
Ironically the battle sequences were better handled in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes than they are here. The addition of new ape Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) lends a little levity to the film but there is a real sense that there is something lacking here. It doesn’t feel epic enough to be a true war film and the intimate moments don’t always ring true here.
Perhaps it was just too ambitious a concept for Reeves to carry off successfully here. War For The Planet Of The Apes, which does resolve the story arc of Caesar and the three films, is a disappointing conclusion to the three reboot movies. If you like the other two films, then there is just about enough to recommend it but with some reservations.
War For The Planet of The Apes is out from in UK cinemas and in US cinemas from this Friday 14 July 2017.