We’ve seen the Rise and Dawn of the planet of the apes, and now it is time for war. We’ve been with Caesar through the birth of his ape nation, but will they make it to the end?
As Caesar (Andy Serkis) predicted at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the humans did not forgive their massive attack on one of their last strongholds. Koba’s hate led to now a full out war between Caesar’s apes and a human army regiment led by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The Colonel has been looking for Caesar, a legend/myth amongst the soldiers. Meanwhile the apes have been looking for a new home while fending off the army. They find one but before they can leave,the Colonel locates them and leads a vicious attack. This attack forces Caesar to make a choice: survival or vengeance. With his faithful lieutenants Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary)beside him Caesar begins the last battle not only to save his people but to determine if he can live or die by his ideals.
Andy Serkis does a phenomenal job showing the weight of everything on Caesar’s shoulders. (Seriously, he deserves an Oscar for this role) The weight of every decision and result is writ large in Caesar’s expressive eyes. There are lots of hard choices to be made in this film and they will hit you as hard as they hit Caesar. Serkis shows pain, exhaustion, rage, numbness, really the whole gamut. He pulls you completely into his character.
Woody Harrelson plays the perfect foil to Caesar.A madman blind to his own insanity, he sees himself as the savior of humankind, much like Caesar sees himself as the savior for his apes. Harrelson moves with confident ease as the symbol of the brutality and violence of humanity. He holds the screen well with Serkis, matching his seething hatred with rational brutality.
The rest of the cast is solid. Maurice and Rocket are better than ever, and get to have some real tear jerker moments in. The new addition to the ape cast, Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), provides much needed moments of humor in a dark, bleak film. Never over the top, he and Nova (Amiah Miller) are seamless add ons to this final chapter.
And what a final chapter this is. So many themes and parallels to the struggle of so many minority groups on this planet. We’ve got apes who are willing to sell out their own kind so that they can save themselves. Of course the humans are more than happy to help them kill their own kind but they always let them know they’ll never have equal status. So much brutality is directed at the apes you’ll quickly feel compassion and sadness for them. The plot deftly weaves all these things together in a way that never feels heavy handed.
We also see how war goes hand in hand with sacrifice. To survive, everyone must sacrifice something. Is Caesar willing to sacrifice his need for vengeance to save his people? What is the Colonel willing to sacrifice to save humankind? The answers to these questions are what drives this heavy story to its dramatic, powerful ending.
This film is really a tour de force. The music, the CGI, the pacing, everything blends together to create a real topical science fiction film that transcends it genre. This is what real science fiction should be. An excellent depiction of how the majority when faced with fear choose to react with violence when simple dialogue could avoid bloodshed. No one wins in these wars based on fear; every one loses something. And with this film, well let’s just say you better bring a box of tissues and someone to lean on because you’ll be losing something too.
War for the Planet of the Apes releases on July 14.