Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes
The third and final installment in the Planet of the Apes franchise hit theaters over the weekend, opening to around $56 million. Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), it continues to star Andy Serkis as Caesar, the leader of the apes’ clan. Woody Harrelson joined the cast as the Colonel, Caesar’s newest foe. Amiah Miller also joined the cast as the young orphan, Nova, and Steve Zahn voiced a new ape. Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, and Judy Greer also all reprise their roles as various apes under Caesar’s leadership.
The film begins by informing us that there have been repercussions from Koba’s actions from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as Caesar predicted. The apes and humans have been warring for two years, and the humans are specifically searching for Caesar. When the military faction, known as Alpha-Omega, initiates an attack on the apes, a few human survivors and a traitorous gorilla face Caesar. One human hostage voices disbelief at seeing Caesar, almost speaking of him as if he were a myth. Caesar shows mercy to the humans in an effort to implement peace, but when the soldiers ambush them that night and kill Caesar’s wife and oldest son, Caesar decides to take revenge. His closest advisors join him on his journey, and along the way they encounter some new allies and gather information about the humans. As the human’s predicament becomes clearer to Caesar, though, he must figure out whether defending his apes or taking revenge is more important.
To have the word “war” in its title, I found this film to be an emotional journey. Caesar has always been the one to be just and merciful even when others encourage him to be otherwise. With the loss of his wife and son, though, Caesar is broken and hungry for revenge. His journey through that is compelling, and I enjoyed seeing him struggle with whether he can extend mercy and forgiveness in light of all that he has endured. The support that he finds through Maurice and Rocket and Luca also brings a lot of heart to the film.
The human characters were also extremely well constructed. Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel is definitely the villain, intent on exterminating all apes. However, his character is wonderfully layered, and his interesting backstory helps explain why he has the mindset and beliefs that he does. The other welcome human addition is the young Nova, who embodies the compassion that humans can exhibit. Her character also goes to show the humanity and character of the apes through the way they take her in and care for her.
It’s a little hard to review the film in a way that doesn’t spoil major developments in the story, but I can confidently say that this installment makes the apes trilogy one of the best I’ve ever seen. It puts the perfect ending to this story, and the story pulls you in as much as the special effects and soundtrack. If you haven’t watched the previous two films in the franchise, you should so that you can enjoy this third installment in the theater. War for the Planet of the Apes may not be the war film you expect, but it delves into the deeper themes of humanity, survival, mercy, and love.