One More Stand: War For The Planet Of The Apes
War For The Planet Of The Apes continues the saga of the rise of apes and the fall of man. Set five years after the events of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the simians he leads take refuge in a heavily wooded area, but still find themselves pursued by humans dedicated to their extermination. Caesar is also haunted by the actions of Koba (Toby Kebbell), who raged against the humans he encountered. A squadron commanded by Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson) finds the apes lair and kills many of them, including Caesar's wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and one of their sins. Caesar still wants a peaceful co-existence of man and ape, but he still wants to exact revenge on The Colonel for his actions. Caesar sets out with a small band of apes, including Maurice (Karin Konoval), for that purpose, leaving his other son in the care of Lake (Sara Canning), who herself had lost her mate in the attack.
The simian flu that has killed many humans continues to mutate. As they follow The Colonel's forces to their base, they make some discoveries. In a conflict between themselves and a lone soldier, they find a girl (Amiah Miller) who cannot speak. They later meet Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who had lived in a zoo prior to the demise of his handlers. He knows where McCullough's Alpha -Omega soldiers camp, and he also gives the girl the name Nova. Alpha-Omega also braces for a fight from human forces to the north of them. They have captured Caesar's tribe, and force them to build a protecteive wall without giving them food or water. Caesar himself gets captured, but the others devise a plan to release them.
War For The Planet Of The Apes is a sold entry in a captivating prequel series. Director/co-writer Matt Reeves returns for this installment, which makes more connections to the 1968 Planet Of The Apes film. Both man and ape stand divided against themselves as the world changes around them. Some apes, in fact, have sided with the humans, and have the designation of donkeys in The Colonel's camp. The one issue I have with War is that, if the filmmakers wanted to show the events leading up to the events of the arrival of Charlton Heston's character George Taylor, then Taylor didn't spend nearly as long in deep sleep as viewers have been led to believe. War has Caesar, Nova, and Cornelius (Devyn Dalton). The events of War seem to be taking place later in the 21st century, while Taylor discovered the talking apes many years later. These movies, in any case, are far better than the 2001 Tim Burton take on the apes.
Serkis, whose face has been famously seen with CGI in his most famous film roles, does excellent work as the conflicted Caesar. He doesn't want to go down the path of Kobu, yet he doesn't want the deaths of Cornelia and Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones) to go unanswered. Caesar's intelligence even gains the grudging admiration of The Colonel. Caesar never really wants a planet of apes, and is saddened that his wish for peaceful co-existence remains unattainable. This performance lets Serkis show an ability that complements the effects. Harrelson does an equally adept job as McCullough, who does not accept any sort of weakness in his ranks. For example, when The Colonel finds the flu affecting some of his troops, he shoots them and leaves them to die in wintry weather. He does not want man to go away, and he makes that point with extreme prejudice. Zahn does fine supporting work as Bad Ape, who doesn't have Caesar's smarts, but clearly is on the same page as Caesar in the most important way. He also provides the movie's best comic moments as an ape who lives the bond he made with the humans. Miller also does well in her film debut as the mute, but brave, Nova, who does her part to show appreciation for Maurice and the others who protect her.
War For The Planet Of The Apes is an effective action drama that continues to build links to the popular science fiction film that inspired it. Anybody familiar with the film series knows what will transpire at some point. War does a pretty good job of making sense of the changing world where man fights for both continued domination and overall survival. Caesar and his followers, meanwhile, learn once more that reasoning does not settle conflicts.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give War For The Planet Of The Apes 3.5 stars. The planet doesn't seem to be big enough for both man and ape.