War For The Planet of The Apes (REVIEW)
I've been a fan of this rebboted franchise since it started. I thought Rise was a fun action movie. Even now it's a pretty solid film with a great second half that had Caesar finding his autonomy. Dawn was exponentially better with the focus being more on the apes and their conflicting ideologies with the humans and even in the ape community as they have evolved, causing Caesar to be tested as a leader. Now with War the conflicts are much more internal for Caesar. Before he had a community behind him, now he finds himself more on his own than ever.
The more I think about this film the more I think it is better than Dawn. They are different films as is "Rise". "Dawn" had a wonderful foil with Caesar and Koba and made for a thrilling action story. This film doesn't have that, instead the conflict is within Caesar trying to come to terms with his situation. That however has made it the most dramatically satisfying film of the trilogy. Any co-operation apes had with the humans in "Dawn" have been thrown out the window. Where there was once peaceful cohabitation, War follows the subjugation of a race through militaristic enslavement.
Andy Serkis, once again brings an absolute powerhouse of a performance as Caesar and Matt Reeves has crafted yet another excellent story aided by some truly incredible special effects. There is no way this story could be told without the use of motion capture technology, and it just goes to show that CG when in service of a story is just as vital a tool as any other in telling a compelling narrative. The cinematography by Michael Seresin is incredible. Shot on Alexa 65 cameras in the forests, on mountains, and in caves behind waterfalls, it's truly spectacular, capturing scenery that is on par with The Revenant, one of the benchmarks of natural light cinematography. Michael Giacchino once again scores the film and while I had enjoyed his scores in the past and the main theme here is beautiful, like with his recent Spiderman Homecoming, I've found he has gotten a bit motif heavy as of late. He creates these wonderful pieces of music but uses them 10 or so times throughout the runtime and it can get a bit distracting.
Score aside, there really isn't much fault I can find with the film, aside from the addition of Bad Ape who is just a bit too silly for my taste. I don't mind humor but it is a bit out of left field for me. Even the humans this time around are kept to a minimal role and are there as mostly a threat with a purpose I won't spoil here. As a result the focus stays squarely on the apes and their struggles. By the end of the film you get to hear both sides of the story and while I still sided with the apes you can understand the fear the humans have for the apes and why some apes defected to the human side.
The fact that a movie about a group of apes has me thinking about the struggles between different groups and understanding why everyone picks their sides is a testament to the film-making that is on display here. If this movie was strictly humans there would be a lot of useless dialogue, but the fact that these are apes who mostly sign, a lot of non verbal communication is used and only when it is necessary. Any fears and doubts are communicated through expressions not so much words and that is a testament to the acting and Weta's excellent CG work, It's something I found to be refreshing and a strength of the film. No big speeches, just concise communication and allowing actions to speak just as loudly as words.
Hitting it's stride half way through the first film, the "Apes" reboot has reached a satisfying conclusion in "War", capping off a trilogy I don't think anyone was expecting to be just as good as it turned out to be. A blockbuster franchise that was concerned with timeless dilemmas that face any new culture's evolution and how they choose to live in a world that is not their own. This film makes clear, if nothing else, "All hail, Caesar!"