Serkis’ monkey shines in War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes closes out a trilogy where those behind the cameras deserve as much recognition as the people in front. Check out the review.

War for the planet of the apes poster with close up of Ceasar's face

War For The Planet Of The Apes closes out a trilogy where those behind the cameras deserve as much recognition as the people in front. Check out the review.

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It’s a great feeling when you can go into a cinema, and in the opening scenes find yourself completely in the grip of a movie. Even better when you get to the point where you’re conscious it’s getting close to the end and you don’t want it to finish

It’s a rare thing.

That’s what happened to me with War For the Planet of the Apes. I’m an apes fan from way back, and while I initially bristled at the prospect of a re-boot, this is one that I feel has expanded, connected and improved the legacy of the original versions.

The army of apes led by Ceasar on horseback approach the human soldiers

War, is the third act in the series of what I’d consider an origin trilogy. In this installment we see humanity in tatters and desperate to overcome the damage wrought by the simian flu that brought the population to it’s knees, which gave rise to a species of ape with expanded intelligence and awareness. All thanks to us fucking with nature and wanting to play god.

It’s that fact that really initially pulls you to the side of the apes in this movie, because the apes intelligence came from humans meddling with science our demise in this film series is entirely self inflicted.

It’s like when you go out on a school night for a few drinks, only to find yourself suddenly in the middle of a complete bender. You end up getting home only a few hours before your alarm is supposed to go off and then front up for work probably still pissed, feeling like a cat shat in your mouth and a fat person in a mobility scooter ran over your head. It’s very hard to feel sorry for someone when the destruction wrought is self-inflicted.

The story

The story goes that since the second movie (Rise of The Planet of the Apes) Ceasar, the alpha chimp and his simian pals have tried to segregate themselves entirely from people and moved into the forests up in the mountains. They are far away from the humans, who are on the brink of extinction and running out of options. The apes are just trying to live peacefully and wait them out. However, because of the Legacy of Koba the villain ape from the first two movies, Ceasar and his tribe are fugitives and being hunted by a small military group headed up by Woody Harrelson’s Colonel.

Woody Harrelson as The Colonel

The characters

There are shades of Apocalypse Now with Harrelson’s Colonel echoing Brando’s Colonel Kurtz. While some might consider it blasphemy to even compare the two, Harrelson is a brilliant actor and he shines in this role. He is an absolute deranged bastard. While you largely hate his character in this film, there are some pretty intense moments where while you might not condone the method in his madness, you can understand how he’s come to his conclusions. The humans are cornered and he sees the apes as the blocker to them surviving.

His character asks us what is the point of human existence without humanity? We might as well hand over the keys to the apes, and if they do a final inspection I don’t think we’re getting the bond back.

It’s those kind of underlying questions I’ve interpreted from the characters and plot that really suck me into the story.

Our hero chimp Ceasar, played formidably by Andy Serkis, is no saint either. He’s been through some fucked up shit in his time. He’s very much a product of the traumatic events that have shaped his life across the three films. You really get to see the morality play as he struggles with his own personal agenda, feelings towards humans and the fact that as their chosen leader he needs to put both aside and do what’s best for the apes.

It’s not for kids. It’s a dark and fairly violent movie. The body count is high on both sides and there are some very confronting and sad moments. There are small amounts of light to break up the shade before it gets too overwhelming though. This responsibility sits with Steve Zahn’s bad ape, who is a hairless hermit chimp that escaped from the zoo when the shit went down. He’s helped by Amiah Miller who plays Nova the orphaned human. Nova kind of embodies the collateral damage from the war and the Simiean Flu. Then there’s Karin Konoval’s wise old orangutan Maurice, who serves as the moral compass.

Director Matt Reeves (who you might know from other movies like Cloverfield and TV series Felicity) along with co-writer Mark Bomback have crafted a brilliantly emotive story to send this franchise off. And while I’m not big on remakes as I said before, I think that Planet of the Apes is one of those franchises that proves to be the exception. It really benefits from modern day production and special effects.

Andy Serkis in his motion capture outfit

 The special effects

And when I think about the special effects and look at how this movie was made it completely blows my mind. Because you don’t doubt for a second that the apes you are watching are 100% real. It’s astounding to see how the people that have been cast to inhabit these characters give them their unique personalities and movement. I have massive appreciation for the work that goes into special effects with films like this. The people that spend those countless hours behind their computers transforming the actors in motion capture suits into these stunning creatures are true artists and are very much the covert stars of this film

Also, if I gave a shit about the Oscars, I’d be more inclined to say that Andy Serkis and those special effects artists (for the way he has inhabited the character Ceasar and they have evolved him over the course of these three films) should absolutely be at the top of the list for a best actor. I think though they are too far ahead of the curve, how do you award an Oscar for a character portrayal that is part actor and special effects? The Oscars can’t even award black people properly, how are they going to go with CGI people, or in this case apes. Incidentally Serkis himself has divided the special effects community by referring to the motion capture technology as digital makeup for his performance, pissing off some artists who are probably bitter for not having worked on projects as good as this one. I’m sure those who have worked with him would have found it a privilege. The guy is a pioneer.

The verdict

Fuck the Oscars, they don’t enhance or diminish my personal experience when watching a film and War for The Planet of The Apes was a wonderful experience that wrapped up a trilogy I’ve loved and will re-watch for many years to come.

See it, think about the work that has con into transforming those humans in lycra with dots all over their faces into apes and let it blow your mind.

War for the Planet of the apes is a big fat. 5 out of 5. 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

4 Comments on Serkis’ monkey shines in War For The Planet Of The Apes

  1. I watched two movies last weekend. One was Dunkirk, a movie that I was looking forward to all year, the other was War for the Planet of the Apes. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would love War for the Panet of the Apes more than Dunkirk. Seriously loved that film and everything about it. A perfect ending to a fantastic trilogy. As for Dunkirk….a real disappointment. Truly 😔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Sibley // August 15, 2017 at 9:48 pm // Reply

    Joe, another great review – just saw it tonight and you’ve nailed it. So many layers, questioning what is humanity, what lies within our souls? Brilliantly made – post-production, acting, scripting, and especially the subtle tie-ins to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes. This trilogy makes that movie, in some sense, all the more richer. I’ll be definitely getting this on DVD when it comes out to complete my set.

    Liked by 1 person

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