DIR: Matt Reeves • WRI: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves • PRO: Amanda Silver • DOP: Michael Seresin • ED: William Hoy, Stan Salfas • DES: James Chinlund • MUS: Michael Giacchino • CAST: Toby Kebbell, Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson
The Planet of the Apes trilogy comes to a conclusion with Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes. When I say end, I really mean the end of the Apes films with Caesar (Andy Serkis) as the main protagonist. I am sure we will be seeing an all new trilogy in the coming years that will bring us back to the world of apes closer to that one depicted in the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. I’ll even bet that is what they will call the first film.
Set two years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the now legendary Caesar and company are breeding like rabbits and being hunted down by soldiers intent on their extinction. Their exodus to a safer haven is interrupted when tragedy strikes – a traitor (a gorilla, of course) in the ranks aids soldiers in finding their camp. This leads to the death of Caesar’s wife and eldest son, who is mistaken for Caesar. Now bereft of his family, barring his youngest, one Cornelius (whom I’m sure we will meet again in further sequels), Caesar reneges on his leadership. He sends his fellow apes in the direction of the promised land while he sets off in search of revenge against The Colonel, directly responsible for his loss. The Colonel is played with Colonel Kurtz-like enthusiasm by Woody Harrelson. A few fellow apes choose to aid him in his journey and new discoveries are made along the way that will serve the next trilogy.
Though there is no real war at the heart of this film, more like slaughter and skirmish (though it might be argued that is what war is in the first place), there is plenty of spectacle. The effects are outstanding and the rendition of the ape heroes is still a joy to watch.
Dramatically, the film serves up a smorgasbord of dramatic tropes, genres and film types. The main one, as the film’s title suggests, is a war movie. Keeping this company are nods to the Western, POW movies and, finally, a biblical epic moment that is so on the nose it steals away any pathos intended. I don’t have any issue with film referencing per say, in fact it can be quite amusing. But when the pastiche at the heart of the drama outweighs its dramatic ideas, I tend to tune out. That said, most audience members won’t have the same misgivings I did, certainly not the younger ones, who probably have no idea what a Western is anyway.
Reeves is good on action and not so hot on the more intense dramatic scenes. The film is overwrought with sentimental moments that have the feel of a Spielbergian hangover, characters staring at each other intently for what seems like forever. Elsewhere, exposition spills from characters’ mouths with a shocking lack of irony; even Harrelson spends an entire scene supplying information just so dramatic developments before and after will make perfect sense. Maybe a mistrust in the audience’s intelligence… or just lazy writing?
For all my grouching, this is an entertaining film and, though caught up somewhere between taking itself too seriously and not seriously enough, it is worth giving your time to. I, for one, look forward to seeing what they do with Planet of the Apes.
12A (See IFCO for details)
War for the Planet of the Apes is released 13th July 2017