War for the Planet of the Apes

What tongue-in-cheek funny phrase should I put for this intro? War for the Planet of the Apes is BANANAS! Critics are going ape for this movie! Caesar isn’t monkeying around this time! There you go. Now you feel warmed up and ready to read my thoughts on the film.

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War for the Planet of the Apes is a very interesting case study in how to make a movie that disregards all typical expectations for a conclusion to a blockbuster series in favor of exploring artistic expression over monetary manipulation. I can understand where a lot of moviegoers might feel disappointed with this film. When you buy a ticket to the follow-up to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with the word “war” in the title, you would be right to assume that you were in for an action-packed high octane thrillride in which you see nothing but hoards of apes attacking an army of misguided humans. However, this is not that film. It’s difficult to describe what film this is in the first place. I’m not sure if it’s a war movie, a post-apocalyptic movie, a revenge movie, a journey movie, or a prison break movie. I suppose at its core this is a very engaging character-driven drama about an ape struggling with the dichotomy of protecting his race and avenging his family. And for the finale of a blockbuster trilogy, that, for lack of a better word, is rad.

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While it is true that this isn’t the action-driven war film that people were expecting, it still has some very thrilling sequences. Whether it be the opening fight at the apes’ Ewokesque forest base or the film’s dynamic but subdued climax, this film continued to be inventive and enthralling in all of its action set-pieces. The series continues to be the new gold standard for special effects. There are some instances of spotty CGI briefly throughout the film, but by and large, the apes were unbelievable. Andy Serkis delivers a drop dead performance that demands recognition purely on the basis that it captivated audiences around the world with a Shakespearean delivery coming from the mouth of a talking chimpanzee. The script of the film genuinely blew me away as with each sequence I found myself more and more interested in the story they were giving me. The characters introduced in this plot are immersive and fully-realized and helped elevate this already lofty storyline to even greater heights. Woody Harrelson as the antagonist was a brilliantly formulated character who was infinitely better than any other human character in this franchise so far.

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Is this the best entry in the apes trilogy? It’s possible. However, this is a difficult accolade to award since each film in this series is entirely different. Rise is a classic sci-fi film warning humans of the dangers of our own hubris. Dawn is an action-packed apocalypse movie exploring the boundaries of man/monkey. And War is, just like regular war, depressing and emotionally-fueled. So far 2017 has gotten me very excited for the future of movies. Intellectual, mature tentpole films like Logan and War for the Planet of the Apes promise a future in which art is treated just as seriously as the money they make from it. For while War isn’t a perfect movie, it has pacing issues and can be a little straightforward at times, it remains a beacon of hope in a world of pandering super hero films and heartless rehashes of plaid-out intellectual properties. Which is ironic, since War for the Planet of the Apes is technically a prequel. But it’s a damn good one if I say so.

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-Ethan Brundeen

 

All images are from War for the Planet of the Apes, a film by 20th Century Fox

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