War For the Planet of the Apes marks the third installment of this rebooted franchise and it’s a threequel that culminates the series in such an intense, emotionally charged fashion.
This movie picks up where Dawn left off with the apes living in a hidden fortress in the Muir Woods. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still head primate and is preparing for a revolution against the humans who see them as a legitimate threat to humanity. The opening battle sequence finds Caesar and his army wanting to find new land to relocate but not before he takes his revenge after the death of his mate (Judy Greer).
Eventually, Caesar and his clan encounter the human forces that want to wipe them out lead by a bloodthirsty, ape-hating general (Woody Harrelson) who runs a commune of his own where apes are treated in a Holocaust-like style and is determined to see the end of Caesar and his kind.
Steve Zahn stars as Bad Ape, a chimpanzee living in isolation after the attacks in the last movie and provides the movie’s comic relief. Zahn’s character could’ve been a disaster, but his approach hits all the right notes both in terms of humor and heart. He’s another bright spot in the movie.
Of course, the climax does lead up to the inevitable showdown between humans and apes and the drama leading up to the battle affects us because we see the points of view from both sides involved and we hope for a satisfying resolution.
The seamless combination of live-action and performance capture is even more remarkable and effective and Andy Serkis delivers by far the best performance of his career. His Caesar is at once heroic and human at the same time and he makes us root for the apes to dominate humanity. The motion capture does its job exceptionally well and Serkis and his fellow actors who play the apes convey so much emotion just by either speaking in sign language or not speaking at all. These are very nuanced, complex performances.
With incredible special effects, a smart script, and compelling performances at its centerpiece, War turns out to be the Apes movie to end all Apes movies.
Please don’t make a fourth, Hollywood. I’ll go ape.
(Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.)
This review is dedicated to the memory of Al Theus.