This one I recommend.

Opposable thumbs up!

“Human get sick. Ape get smart. Human kill ape.” That is where the final story begins. Matt ReevesWar for the Planet of the Apes starts at a point where any hope of peace between the dwindling human race and the increasingly intelligent apes has vanished. It has been hailed as a modern masterpiece and while I will not go that far in my verdict, I can see why viewers would find that this one stands out amongst the usual summer movies.

Caesar and his men, er, apes.

The leader of the apes is Caesar, once again portrayed via state-of-the-art motion-capture by Andy Serkis, and the force of humans they are primarily up against is led by a figure known simply as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson, fantastic as usual). After this ruthless officer invades the jungle-based safe haven of Caesar’s followers, killing his wife and child in the process, Caesar elects to seek him out while the other apes search for another sanctuary, rumored to lie beyond the wastelands, where the humans never travel.

He is joined by such fellow apes as the wise Maurice (Karin Konoval) and later a human child nick-named “Nova” (Amiah Miller) who has mysteriously lost the ability to speak. I was expecting to see more Internet-based complaints with regards to how the most important female character in the film doesn’t say anything, but I suppose it’s less obvious when the only characters with bigger roles are non-human. Also, I imagine the recent Doctor Who announcement has given the opinion-having web crusaders other things to think about.

I must say, though, that the decision of showing this film exclusively from the point-of-view of the apes was the right one, especially considering the walking clichés that all the non-Oldman human beings were back in Dawn (I needn’t remind anyone of Mr. “I’m The Asshole”, capital T intentional). Also interesting is the fact that not all of the chimps, gorillas, and orangutans have mastered speech yet and are thus forced to communicate via gestures, if at all.

I was surprised at how much of the film was conveyed either via sign language or in complete silence, noting that this sort of patience is not normally expected from the audience of a summer blockbuster. There were some moments where we got subtitles even though the characters didn’t seem to do much of anything with their hands, and at some points Caesar would respond verbally to sign language occurring outside of his peripheral vision, but I admired the minimalism all the same.

Another thing that has always set the Apes trilogy apart from most modern garden-variety blockbusters is the characterizations. I maintain that Caesar the Ape is probably one of the most intriguing and complex characters of recent mainstream cinema, thanks both to the writing and Andy Serkis; even at his most vengeful, we understand his wrath because we have seen his suffering (plus, it may be part of his increasingly human mind), and we can believe his status as a respected leader to his “people” because we know his courage and sacrifices.

The next thing is, as you won’t be shocked to learn, the outright astonishing effects, which have only gotten better and better with each film. And it isn’t just in terms of the flawlessly natural movements of the animals or the way their bodies interact with the environments. As my dad confirmed after a local screening, they’ve also improved the lighting issues of the last chapter and opted for physically based rendering instead of “tweaking” everything until you can see all the little details of the textures, even in scenes where it wouldn’t match the rest of the lighting. In War it looks bafflingly good and it is never once blatantly obvious where the CGI ends and the physically real objects begin.

Sure there are some stupidly plot convenient moments, instances of questionable geography (I don’t know where in America this takes place that the characters can travel from a desert to a snowy pine forest within a seemingly short time), one downright jarring product placement, and a few remaining character clichés such as the “Five Man Band” Caesar puts together once he vows to hunt down The Colonel, complete with a “Sixth Ranger” in the form of a cowardly chimpanzee called “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn). There was also a point near the end where the human side began to seem a little too overtly evil and I detected some not too subtle allusions to Trump’s “Adolf-ian America” wherein the fascist humans are constructing a wall at the expense of the apes and there comes a time where we must ask ourselves who the REAL Mexicans are.

Luckily, they saved it somewhat during a conversation scene between Caesar and The Colonel, where we more clearly understand why The Colonel does as he does and how he fears a sort of “great replacement”, as I’ve elected to call it to make it even more topical. War for the Planet of the Apes is still an inordinately complex and thoughtful action film (especially for one that happens to star Simians with machine guns) which also boasts top-class visual effects, a powerful score by Michael Giacchino, great photography throughout the whole show, characters as memorable as they are intriguing, peak performances, and a few interesting references to the original Planet of the Apes that make me hope this is not just the end of the reboot trilogy, but of the whole franchise.

When Caesar fell to his knees outside The Colonel’s fortress as though he were about to shout “you maniacs”, I felt that the circle was complete.

4/5 whatever

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