War for the Planet of the Apes

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The only thing that i can say to preface this film is that it i’m frustrated in not being able to find the film’s score on CD anywhere in my area. It’s bullshit, as this film has delightful music.

In fact i don’t recall seeing any of the preceding film’s scores in the usual places i look, in the end i’ll probably have to resort to using amazon if i want to get my hands on it. Which is so much less fun than going out and finding it on a shelf, but i guess that’s just the way things are moving.

 

THE STORY

Both apes and humanity are on fragile footing in this last installment of Caesar’s story.

 

THE GOOD

I have to remark at how markedly better the animation has gotten from film to film, it has never been bad from Rise to War, but there were times in this film where i questioned if they were using real apes in the shots. CGI animation has come a long way since TRON, and the advances are well used here. All that would be for nought if it weren’t for Andy Serkis, his lauded abilities help tremendously to bring Caesar to life. With advanced mo-cap technology (particularly of his face), bringing all of the weight of Caesar’s years and actions straight into my lap, Weta continues to impress and have produced their finest work here.

Any regular reader of this site will know of my fondness of endings, in fact i consider the ending of a story to be its most important aspect; and here in War we have a good one. It ties up the loose ends of the previous films, and builds the foundation of Caesar’s legacy for a proper remake of Planet of the Apes in a satisfactory manner.

A lot of that success hinges on the moral complexities that Caesar faces in his last triumph, and the grey areas presented here lay even more bare the failings of Sci-fi contemporaries like Star Trek Beyond. Here Caesar faces the choice of following through with a personal vendetta, or being the leader his people need at their most crucial hour and the results are quite fascinating and well layered. His choices have ramifications good and bad, and the most important consequences are well motivated.

One subplot involving a traitor gorilla is an obvious stand out, with his transformation from bitter/hateful outcast to hero being both well written and affecting.

 

THE BAD

What is up with this trend in movies, where lately a film goes to great lengths to build up atmosphere and a serious tone only to throw it out for the need to get in a laugh. The Force Awakens dramatic turns suffer tremendously under Jar Jar Flynn’s antics, and while i didn’t see the film; the teaser for Dead Men Tell No Tales also shoots itself in the foot with unnecessary humour.

Now Pirates has a good reason in that the films are light in nature and have a lot of humour in them, But there’s no excuse for it in War. Here watch the teaser for it and note the oppressive apocalyptic tone and atmosphere:

So upon watching that trailer (and the movie lives up to it), do you as an audience member say:

“That’s great, you know what it needs though? Some slapstick comedy.”

Because that’s exactly what you’ll get with Bad Ape’s antics, and it is an incredible misstep. How does that even come about? 40 or so minutes into the movie, after carefully crafted setup, after moral weight being put onto Caesar with the killing of a fellow ape (with his bare hands), i get treated to a slippity slidy funny monkey man; whose tragic past (leveraged for sympathy)is at odds with the fact that i’m meant to laugh at him. Frustrating barely encompasses my contempt for this bizarre attempt at brevity, it’s unneeded, and distracting.

The bad comedy can be ignored, as it is moved to the sidelines however that isn’t the only mistake the film makes; first among these mistakes is a scene where the gorilla (who isn’t Buck from Rise no matter how much the writers want him to be) gives Nova a flower, only to die and have it given back.

The scene is meant to show the duality of the ape’s situation; how moments of beauty and humanity can go hand in hand with horror and violence. But its obvious tragic outcome is far too transparent a set up to be taken seriously. It and a handful of other scenes come off as overly saccharine, robbing time from the more interesting and genuine drama unfolding in the narrative, and distracting with their ham handed attempts to convey thematic purpose and situational complexity.

These include Blue Eye’s reunion with his wife Lake (whom i had no clue was his wife until mentioned later), and Nova giving Caesar water (her animosity towards Caesar isn’t given enough space to warrant such a long, sappy, drawn out scene between them).

Lastly the title of War for the film (apart from the film’s opening) is far more figurative than i would have liked.

Another minor grumble is the lack of consistency with the rest of the series in opening shots; both of which begin (more so in Dawn admittedly) with shots of the apes eyes and that is missing here in War. It’s a nice thematic touch that would’ve linked all three movies together visually, but i guess it wasn’t as important to the film makers i thought it would be.

Also they dropped the theme of Caesar’s face in different forms for the posters, all of the coolest posters of the previous films had a closeups of his face but the official (theatrical release, not teaser images) poster for War doesn’t. They had one, the snow covered one of Caesar, but didn’t use it past the teasers. Again, that’s lame! They would have looked awesome all lined up on my wall but now that can’t happen.

 

THE UGLY

War for the Planet of the Apes is a decent follow-up and conclusion to a great trilogy, however it remains frustrating as everything was present in order for it to be a great one. With the weight and motivation of an effective serialized narrative, and moral complexity being diluted with overly sentimental hand wringing and bizarre slapstick routines.

As a result it doesn’t hold up as well to further viewings like its fellow entries, which is a shame. It is however certainly worth a look, and a necessary viewing for fans of the rebooted franchise.

 

OUT OF FIVE

 

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