Apes together strong. And, thanks to this latest film, this third Apes is the strongest yet.
This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to see an advance screening (thanks to 20th Century Fox) of the new War for the Planets of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves, and it is by far my favorite summer hit movie. War for the Planet of the Apes is a high-strung, emotional story of personal tragedy, vengeance and the fight for survival when everything is working against you. It's a story of perseverance and the fight for what's right — to live among family and friends without fear. It is, in every sense of the term, a story about what it means to be human, but with one small exception. The humans in War for the Planet of the Apes that march through California are more the villains. Oh, the irony!
War for the Planet of the Apes begins with a tragedy that leads to Caesar deciding to break his own rule about not engaging with the humans hunting down his tribe. His decision to try to kill the Colonel (Harrelson) while his tribe runs off in search of a safe environment to live in results in terrible consequences for everyone involved. Caesar, with the help of his friends and new friends including the hilarious “Bad Ape” (Zahn), will have to try and fix their what happened before everyone he knows is killed.
One of the reasons why I connected so much with this trilogy because it takes a deeper dive into Caesar's own mind. Up until now, Caesar has been a leader to a tribe of apes that see him as the chosen one. We haven't been able to get to know him because, like the apes, he's always been kept at a distance from us. He's a mysterious figure; a brilliant mind and war strategist that we've respected but couldn't root for on a personal level. I felt connected with Cesar in this film, always locked into his eyes that tell his story of pain and tiredness.
War for the Planet of the Apes changes that. The movie starts with an inside look at his family life and ends with it. There's a constant reminder that while the overarching issue over the tribe of apes is bigger than just Caesar's own feelings, a large part of their battle can be defined by his own personal journey. The combination of the never-ending hope Caesar carries with him and this personal desire to settle the score for his own losses drives the movie forward in a way the last two couldn't. It's hard not to cry for Caesar and the rest of his tribe. It's hard not to feel like you're watching yourself being reflected in the bad humans who hunt and torture them day in and day out. It's hard, at times, to remember to breathe. That's the type of movie that War for the Planet of the Apes is.
But to lighten up the mood, let me also talk about how funny the movie is thanks to “Bad Ape”. Zahn's portrayal of the zoo-friendly ape who has been in hiding for the past few months and ends up joining Caesar's group is the unrecognized hero. His scenes are ones I remember the most when I am thinking about the movie. He is adorable and so kind-hearted. Comedy, especially in serious movies, is the breath of fresh air that lets the movie continue.
The motion-captured digital effects ape characters are so impressive. You feel their emotions when they were mad, happy, and also sympathetic, especially when Caesar’s orangutan advisor, Maurice, takes a liking to a little girl he finds hiding in the back of a shack. The graphics in this film are simply amazing, it never once feels like you’re watching a film with CGI apes speaking in subtitles.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a near-perfect conclusion. It is definitely a must-see summer movie that will not disappoint you. Hail Cesar! I give it 5 out of 5 stars. - xo Mel