Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

The third entry in the rebooted series isn't monkeying around

War for the Planet of the Apes (Válka o planetu opic)
Directed by Matt Reeves
With Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Gabriel Chavarria

The rebooted series of Planet of the Apes has proven to be a little more intelligent than the sometimes silly and campy 1970s original. The latest entry, War for the Planet of the Apes, follows on the conflict that began in the second film, 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

In the previous episode, a virus has wiped out much of mankind and put the survivors into conflict with the intelligent apes that were created through human experimentation.

War for the Planet of the Apes, the third in the series that began with 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, picks up with the remaining group of mixed apes, led by Caesar, hiding out in dense woods. They want to live in peace on their own but are still pursued by a military unit called Alpha Omega.

Andy Serkis is back as the intelligent chimpanzee Caesar, in another motion capture role. He was Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and played the title role in the most recent remake of King Kong.

The greatest accomplishment of the rebooted series has been the depiction of the apes. The 1970s series suffered from limited budgets, and the technology of the time only allowed for actors in rubber-mask costumes. They weren't very convincing.

Serkis has the movements of the chimp down, and it is hard to remember that Caesar is computer animation based on an actor who was covered in dots to create a grid.

The apes are also quite diverse. There are Bornean orangutans and western lowland gorillas, each of whom have their own sets of characteristics and personality quirks.

New for this episode is comic actor Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a chimp who was raised in a zoo and has since lived an isolated life. He brings some levity to the film while being a bit a sad character at the same time.

Another effort at adding some cuteness has a subplot with an orphaned girl, played by newcomer Amiah Miller.

The film sides with the apes, making them into the good guys who want the conflict to end so they can live in peace without human much contact.

The bad guys are the humans, led by a colonel played by Woody Harrelson. The scenes with him and his soldiers are very heavily influenced by Apocalypse Now, the 1979 epic about the Vietnam War featuring a rogue colonel.

Harrelson, like the colonel in that film shaves his head and talks about his personal obsessions with the conflict. Some graffiti even says Ape-pocalypse now.

Some other classic war films are paid homage to as well, but naming them would give away some of the later plot points.

While there are some battles, as the title indicates, much more of the film is spent with the apes and their issues over what to do to finally get the peace they want and to get away from the humans who are trying to eliminate them.

Some philosophical points about revenge and all-consuming hatred of your opponents are dealt with in the story, making it a bit more intelligent than a lot of summer fare that offers nonstop action but few ideas.

According to reports another sequel is planned, but there are no scenes during the credits to drop hints at the what the plot might be.

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