Eye-popping cinematography, a powerful narrative, and fantastic performances from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson make Matt Reeves’s War For The Planet Of The Apes the summer’s best blockbuster.
War For The Planet Of The Apes picks up during the height of the deadly conflict between man and ape. Caesar (Serkis) makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want war but they will defend themselves. He even makes an offer to the colonel leading the human forces (Harrelson) that if they allow them to keep the woods then fighting would stop. His response to the offer is to send in a strike force and slaughter Caesar’s wife and child. The war begins to venture into a darker place as Caesar wrestles with vengeance vs. what’s best for his people. Eventually, the war brings these two foes face to face. The colonel attempts to apologize for his action explaining to him that he thought it was him not his wife and child that he killed. He then proceeds to add that he’d repeat it if it meant keeping his kind from ever ruling this planet. This, of course, turns matters from bad to far worse. Tensions reach a fever pitch, and the fate of our world hangs in the balance. Will this be a world dominated by man or a planet ruled by apes?
Reeves decision to shoot this film in 65 MM was the right call. It gave the movie a wider scale allowing the cinematographer to capture the full scope of his tale. The use of 65MM also enabled them to depict the complete devastation that comes in times of war. While some films attempt to glamorize conflict, he uses visual imagery to show the impact this war has had on both sides. For every burnt out building and dead soldier, we see the remains of slaughtered apes.
The use of close-ups in the film was unexpected yet proved to be quite crucial to the emotional core of the movie. Anytime, the camera would move in closer on Caesar; it revealed an ape who has aged rapidly due to this conflict. Apparently, the death and devastation have worn him down. Your heart begins to break when you look into his once soulful eyes which now appear to be dark and empty. On the flip, when we get a closer look at the colonel, the audience sees a man who saw the same devastation as Caesar but who’s heart is full of hate.
Loved the inclusion of the mute girl that Caesar’s group found at the abandoned cabin. Caesar’s insistence that they not shoot her only as the turned to them saying ” We aren’t savages” shows their compassion even after most of their loved ones have been slaughtered. One wonders what would have occurred had the mute girl been some ape who had been found by the colonel.
The character of “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn) served two purposes in the overall narrative. The first was he was the shot of comedic relief this film needed as most of the film is extremely dark. Secondly, he represented a change in the overall appearance of the ape characters. Instead of looking more like Caesar, “Bad Ape” appears to be more human. Could he be a genealogical descendant of those apes from the original film?
Serkis is fantastic once again in the role Caesar. He’s redefined what should and shouldn’t be considered acting. Anyone who feels that what he does in the motion capture suit isn’t acting then you haven’t seen any of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or any of his previous work.
The use of an AO (Alpha/Omega) symbol in the military base was extremely clever. A new civilization is soon to begin, and another one is about to end. The question is which one.
The brilliance in War For The Planet Of The Apes is how its narrative can juxtapose the immense beauty of their surroundings with the horror of war. Reeves brings out the humanity in the characters and shows how depraved mankind can be when pushed to its limits. The technology used to create War For The Planet Of The Apes is unique, but it’s the storytelling that makes it special. It’s something audiences should experience but prepared for the movie to stick with you long after you’ve left the theater.