Monday, July 17, 2017

Movie Review: "War for the Planet of the Apes" (2017)

Director: Matt Reeves
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

A crazed human, known only as "The Colonel," leads his soldiers in an attempt to wipe out all remaining apes. Caesar and his fellow apes want peace, but The Colonel has no intention of letting that happen.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" is the third film in the new "Planet of the Apes" prequel series. It is directed by Matt Reeves, who directed the second film in the series, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."  It stars Andy Serkis, who returns in the leading role of Caesar, the leader of the apes. New to the series is Woody Harrelson, who plays the film's antagonist simply known as 'The Colonel.' This man commands a troop of rogue soldiers who are hell-bent on destroying all of the remaining apes. Humans fear they are on the verge of extinction, and they blame the apes for their situation instead of understanding it was the actions of humans themselves that led to their own downfall.

Despite the title of this film, it is not a big war picture. This is a far more dramatic, humanistic story rather than a war-time action epic. It is extremely well written, a deeply involving and engaging story with endearing characters. Andy Serkis is nothing short of brilliant in the role of Caesar, and he always has been. He brings a tremendous, heart-wrenching presence to this role, and the picture is better because of his incredibly detailed performance. It is sad Serkis doesn't get the recognition he deserves for his work, just because he primarily does motion capture performances. Award shows need to start recognizing this more modern style of performance because behind all of the little white dots and a digital overlay is a man giving one of the best performances of the year. Another notable mo-cap performance comes from Karen Konoval, who has played the orangutan named Maurice throughout the whole series. Maurice has always been the heart and soul of the ape clan, and her performance truly brings this character to life in a sensational way. Also in the film is Steve Zahn, who is superb as the newly introduced character named Bad Ape. Bad Ape offers up some lighthearted comedy in an otherwise emotionally weighty, solemn film.

The visual effects are unbelievably fantastic. They are staggering to look at, an absolutely pristine sight. Everything from the apes themselves to snowy hillsides, from a forest rainstorm to mossy trees. If we didn't know better, we could be led to believe that Reeves actually taught apes to talk and ride horses, that's how good the effects are. We have made it known throughout the years that we prefer practical effects in movies. If and when they can be done, we feel they should be used. Here, we've never once cared about the use of digital effects because they are some of the best we have ever seen, and this is no exaggeration.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" emotionally connects the audience to these characters, partially due to the realism of the visual effects combined with the aforementioned motion capture performances. We found ourselves moved by this wonderfully written story and the thematic undertones it carries. This picture is one of both brutality and hope, of combat and peace, of hatred and understanding, and we loved every harrowing second of it. If this is the end of the series, this was a stellar way to close it out. Matt Reeves and everyone involved with this project should be proud of themselves, and we hope this film gets recognized come awards season!

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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