War For The Planet of the Apes (2017)

Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.
Gorilla Warfare

Director: Matt Reeves
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Gabriel Chavarria, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite

To say this Planet of the Apes trilogy has been a real surprise is underselling things. The idea of rebooting this once popular franchise, especially after Tim Burton's attempt left such a sour reaction, felt unnecessary. In spite of this, the Andy Serkis starring series has repeatedly proven itself, delivering engaging characters, gripping stories, and ground-breaking work in visual effects. With the third film, director Matt Reeves has crafted the best entry into one of the most stunning trilogies in recent memory.

It's been 15 years since the events of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With the U.S military in pursuit, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is trying to protect his apes out by hiding out in a base, while attempt to maintain some peace between his group and the humans. After suffering an unimaginable loss, Caesar is fuelled with rage, and intends to stop at nothing until he's taken vengeance against the sadistic Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

Image result for war for the planet of the apes youtubeThe most astonishing thing about this feature is how set minded it is about what it wants to achieve. Matt Reeves clearly wants to tell an adult minded story, that contains strong character work within, and never compromises by sacrificing either for the sake of spectacle. You'd think this was a no-brainer for big Hollywood movies, but then something so inept like Transformers: The Last Knight is proof of how easily story and character can seem unnecessary to the filmmakers. Thank goodness for co-writers Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback, whose script never wavers in that regard.

Once more, this film wouldn't work without the talented Andy Serkis in the leading role. He puts another phenomenal performance into the lead role of Caesar, whose rage leads him down a dangerous path, with old friend Maurice remarking how much he's becoming like past foe, Koba. As his character tries to cope with how recent events have changed his life, the combination of Andy Serkis' strong facial work, and state of the art effects from WETA, results in something truly exemplary to behold. It's a strong example as to why motion-capture performances should receive awards recognition.

Woody Harrelson goes toe to toe with Serkis, menacingly portraying The Colonel, an iron fisted leader who's obsessed with wiping out the Caesar and his tribe. It's a well rounded figure, making a great foil for our ape protagonist. Steve Zahn deserves a special mention, acting as a much needed comic relief, playing a scene stealer named Bad Ape. Amiah Miller impresses as Nova, a mute human who's taken in by Caesar and his clan.

More than just a bit of monkey business, it's bananas how spectacle comes without the need to sacrifice character or mature storytelling. War for the Planet of the Apes is a wondrous example of a strong blockbuster which audiences will go ape over.