Set years after events of 2014s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of apes find themselves hunted and forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer severe losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own journey for vengeance. As the quest finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle to determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
I've always loved the Planet of the Apes movies. Even in their earliest rubber faced forms they've always intrigued me and grabbed my interest. Societal structures, uses of religion and politics have always been at the core of their story. These 'new' apes movies have been no different and Matt Reeves has, with this latest instalment, rounded out what must surely be considered part of the 'great trilogy' conversations many cine lovers enter into and wrestle over.
Picking up some of the threads from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar still wrestles with his guilt over the demise his compatriot Koba and struggles to maintain the moral high ground when pushed to the limit by Woody Harrelson's maniacal Colonel. Harrelson's portrayal will draw many to comparisons with crazy authority figures of war films past and indeed the movie itself at one juncture nods to this. While this is a war movie in part the film's true heart lies within the Western genre. Caesar as the lone gunman, powered by revenge to see justice done is only missing a stetson in order to make the comparisons complete. Striding across plains and vistas on horseback with a stirring score, you could easily close your eyes and be transported to that golden age of cinema with gunshots and ricochets provided by a gunslinging John Wayne.
The CGI throughout the film is breathtakingly realistic with special mention given to Caesar's moral conscience, Orang-Utan Maurice being wonderfully rendered, even down to small hair inflections on his joules. I was convinced that at times he was indeed real so tender and endearing was the performance from mo-cap artist Karin Konoval. Andy Serkis will always garner plaudits and interview time for his front and centre performance but all involved deserve huge credit. This realism is particularly important as this film is only to be released (initially) in 3D. Often I'm unimpressed with 3D films but so engrossed was I with the story in front of me I forgot about the glasses layered over the top of my own spectacles. While I consider the 3D unnecessary it is not so distractingly bad that it hinders the film in anyway. In fact the opening scene with soldiers creeping towards an ape base was impressive viewing.
This western piece also leans towards the biblical at times with parallels between Caesar's trajectory and that of Moses being most apparent as the film proceeds. Caesar has already broken one of the apes commandments in the previous film and as with Moses this has repercussions that he could not have predicted. Finding his people enslaved by Harrelson's Colonel it would not be unthinkable for Caesar to cry 'let my people go' with Heston like fervour.
Nods and winks to the classic apes movies will also raise a smile for those fans of the original films and in many ways these potentially allow this film to be the climax of this prequel saga. This set of apes movies has provided the antidote for my blockbuster cynicism following each release and if this to be the end I am more than content. Should a further tale be found within these simian screen sensations however, I will have no complaints.
War for the Planet of the Apes is released on 11th July in 3D.
Thanks to MovieHouse for screening access.