Movie Review: “War for the Planet of the Apes”
War for the Planet of the Apes
Considerable time has passed since the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, Caesar's (Andy Serkis) community is still dealing with the fallout of Koba's actions. The humans, led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), believe that the apes are a threat, so are implementing tactical warfare in an attempt to eliminate the apes for good. Caesar still wants peace and believes that humanity is generally good, but the acts of war are making it increasingly difficult for Caesar to maintain his view on humanity.
When the Colonel executes an assassonation attempt, Caesar suffers a great loss and begins his quest for revenge. Caesar now must travel with a group of his closest companions on a journey to locate—and kill—The Colonel. Along the way, Caesar embarks on an inner journey as his companions, past experiences, and new experiences all challenge his views on humanity, as well as his current intention of killing the Colonel. However, the Colonel’s mission is far from over.
The Pros & Cons
Andy Serkis (+6pts)
Character Development (-3pts)
Bad Ape (+3pts)
The War (-5pts)
Woody Harrelson (+4pts)
Human Devolution (-2pts)
Pro: Andy Serkis (+6pts)
Andy Serkis has done it once again. This guy, and his capability as a motion capture performer, are the biggest draws to these films. I will get into my problems with the writing of this story, but know that I had my fair share of issues with it. Nonetheless, Andy Serkis added a ton of emotional depth to this role, and I was captivated whenever his character was on screen, which was almost the entire movie. I find Andy Serkis' ability to transform into these roles to be nothing short of fascinating, and this role was no exception.
Con: Character Development (-3pts)
My first major issue with the writing of this film was the weak character development. Both Caesar and the Colonel felt like they fell very far below their potential. I will give the writers credit, they nailed the setup of each character and where they were at beginning of this film. Unfortunately, after the Colonel's assassination attempt, Caesar felt like a fairly one-note character. I get the emotional journey he was supposed to be going on, but I thought that the writers failed to capture the weight of that inner journey.
Instead, Caesar had his blinders on and was focused on revenge right up until the end. As good as Andy Serkis' performance was, it was not enough to carry the character's emotional weight alone. The writing needed to support him, but it did not. We have seen one-dimensional revenge storylines before, and this one felt like nothing different. The Colonel had very week character development as well. His intentions were made very clear in the beginning of the movie, but those intentions were never challenged, which resulted in another one-note character.
Pro: Bad Ape (+3pts)
This ape, played by Steve Zahn, was one of the highlights of this film. On their journey, Caesar and his group ran into an ape—named Bad Ape—who was fluent in English, like Caesar. We got a brief, summarized backstory for this character, which was a backstory that I believe audiences will sympathize for. Then, once the audience cared about this character, he became a strong comic relief for the rest of the movie. His reactions to Caesar's plan, and the chaos that ensued as a result, was so much fun to watch. This character was a great addition to this franchise. I just hope that—if or when they do more sequels to this movie—they will continue to include this character going forward.
Con: The War (-5pts)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave us the evolution of Caesar and his followers as they escaped from human captivity. The first film showed Apes as innocent. Then there was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was a story about division. It had humans who believed in peace, humans who believed apes needed to be wiped out, apes who believed in peace, and apes who believed that humanity needed to be wiped out. With good and bad on both sides, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, suggested that evil was a product of intelligence and that, apes were no better than humans once Intelligence was a factor. While Caesar was good in the last two movies, War for the Planet of the Apes was all about Caesar's inner struggle with anger and determining whether or not he and his fellow apes were any better than the humans they were at war with.
It was a strong premise but I thought the filmmakers executed it poorly. The reason behind Caesar's rage was completely understandable. All audiences will be able to understand where he was coming from, and they will agree that the Colonel was a threat that needed to be dealt with. As a result, audiences will not be behind the internal struggle. They will see what Caesar was doing as right so will not be invested in a storyline that suggested Caesar could be wrong. Additionally, the War" that the title refers to did not seem to involve apes. The war was happening and the Apes were really just stuck in the middle of it.
Pro: Woody Harrelson (+4pts)
Like I said, I felt like the writing for this movie was weak. Andy Serkis was able to overcome his character's writing and was able to give audiences an interesting character to watch simply from his performance. Woody Harrelson was able to do the same. His character was not written very well, with the plot withholding his backstory until nearly the very end of the film. However, through Woody Harrelson‘s performance, he was able to convey that there was much more to this character than him simply hating monkeys. Woody Harrelson gave the character sincerity, complexity, and relatability. Based on the writing, this very easily could have been a generic, one-note character, but Woody Harrelson was able to make him so much more.
Con: Human Regression (-2pts)
One big question mark I had going into this film was: would they explain the human regression? Anyone, who has seen the original films, knows that humans and apes had essentially swapped roles. Humans were primitive beings, while apes had become intelligent rulers of society. These movies have done a good job of showing the evolution of apes, but—so far up until—had not explained the regression of humans. The human population had severely diminished, but the remaining humans were still very much intelligent.
This movie provided an explanation that felt like more lazy writing than anything else. Human regression could have been a fourth movie, and could have been a compelling one. Instead, the filmmakers threw out an explanation as quickly as possible, to spend more time focusing on Caesar's revenge storyline. The “war" centered around the human regression, but the filmmakers did not give this storyline the attention it needed, which resulted in it having little impact.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
I think that War for the Planet of the Apes had some good action, great acting, fun characters, and introduced some compelling issues for its characters. Where the film fell short was the execution of those compelling issues. It was as if the movie had all of these interesting plot points, then tried to find the laziest possible way to connect them. My issues with this film all seemed to come back to the writing. Maybe it was the writers’ fault, or maybe the blame falls on the studio messing with the writers’ story. I honestly have no idea, but I know the result was the weakest of the rebooted franchise.
I would not go as far as to say that it was a bad movie, but it could have been great and the previous two films are proof of that. While the plot issues will result in bored audiences, there was still some fun to be had in this movie and if you have loved the previous films then I recommend seeing this movie. However, do not expect it to blow you away. If you were not a fan of the previous movies, this one is not likely to win you over.