WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017), directed by Matt Reeves, is the conclusion of the story of Caesar (Andy Serkis) in his journey to find peace for his family and for the rest of the apes from 15 years of struggle with humankind. "War" doesn't disappoint with its fantastic visuals, great performances, interesting story, and plenty of heart-wrenching moments. Despite of some questionable performances and plot-related conveniences, "War" remains a fitting end to a compelling trilogy that will stick with me for some time.
Let me preface this review by saying that the title of this movie does not do it justice. Many individuals were disappointed about the fact that they went into the theater expecting all-out war between apes and humans, and instead got a relatively slowly- paced film that served as a compliment to its two predecessors. Before seeing this film, I revisited the trilogy and that strengthened my overall experience. If you did not like "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014), then I do not think you will enjoy this film.
First off, from a technical aspect, the visual effects in "War" are beyond impressive, especially in regards to the principal apes in the movie. Most impressive is the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), especially in close-up shots; he's almost photo- realistic. Director of Photography Michael Seresin doesn't disappoint with the cinematography of "War," which compliments the already spectacular visuals. The score, provided by Michael Giacchino, is also well-done and interestingly used, though some of the choices of instruments towards the end of the film were questionable and a bit cheesy. From a visual standpoint, this film is spectacular!
The acting in this movie was excellent! Andy Serkis' portrayal as Caesar has continuously improved since "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011), and the subtleties of Serkis' performance in "War" makes this his best performance yet! Most of the other apes, especially Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and RedDonkey (Ty Olsson) were portrayed extremely well. Especially noteworthy were Toby Kebbell's brief appearances as Koba, which were not only well-acted but hauntingly realistic. Woody Harrelson's performance was decent, as Harrelson did a good job playing the war-hardened Colonel. However, Steve Zahn's performance as Bad Ape took a while to get used to, and provided some comic relief to a movie that I don't think needed it to succeed. Nova (Amiah Miller) was also mediocre, and I did not completely buy her performance.
The story of "War" really serves to bring the character of Caesar full. All Caesar really wants to do is protect the people that he loves, and he is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect them. This has been the case since the beginning of the trilogy. That makes the murder of Cornelia (Judy Greer) and Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones) so impactful. Its bluntness and brutality really speaks to how the directors have connected me emotionally to these characters. Caesar's failure in protecting his family acts as the film's inciting moment. The "war" that is referred to in the title has two fronts: the actual war between apes and humans and Caesar's internal war in either giving in to primal instincts to enact revenge on The Colonel or refraining from doing so.
The end of the movie brings the story full-circle: "Rise" begins with Caesar's birth and "War" ends with Caesar's death. While its extremely convenient that Caesar only succumbs to his injuries at the exact moment the apes have found their new home, Caesar's death is poignant and heartbreaking, especially having gotten to know the character since I first saw "Rise" in 2011, and Serkis' and Konoval's performances capture that moment beautifully.
I did have multiple problems with the movie however. First off, you do have to see the first two movies if you want to truly experience this film. Yes, there is information given to us via text at the beginning of the movie (which annoyed me a bit), but to truly understand this movie the other films are essential. I found Luca's (Michael Adamthwaite) death to be a bit emotionally manipulative. It was underwhelming and it bothered me a little because of its non-necessity. The burning of a US flag was unnecessary and manipulatively symbolic, and did not really contribute to the story at hand. Furthermore, the avalanche ex-machina was also extremely convenient in wiping out what was left of the human army, and the fact that all of the apes found a tree to climb up during that scene was extremely unbelievable, especially because many apes, including Bad Ape, are nowhere close to a tree when the avalanche supposedly hits.
Despite those problems, I find that the depiction of humans in this movie does not bother me as much as many other reviewers. Yes, humans are portrayed as the "enemy," but I don't think the message of "War" is that "humans are bad." I believe that the message of the film revolves around how fear of the unknown can corrupt the human mind. This theme has been explored before in "Dawn" with Gary Oldman's Dreyfus; again, the other two films are necessary to see how fear has progressively changed humanity in the face of complete destruction.
Overall, "War of the Planet of the Apes" left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth - in a good way. The ups of this movie outweigh the downs, and I would recommend this movie to anybody who enjoys the trilogy as much as I do. While this movie is not for everybody, it is definitely worth buying a ticket on the biggest screen you can find, and I will be re-watching the entire trilogy when "War" is available for purchase.
Review by jacksonjmachesky from the Internet Movie Database.