War for the planet of the apes

Finalizing a trilogy of films is never easy, reaching a satisfying conclusion without betraying everything that came before is the directors main goal.

When we left “Caeser” (Andy Serkis) there were skirmishes between apes and humans, portending all out war. A battle not of the apes making but war was coming all the same, which would decide the fate of the planet.

This entry takes a different route to what you might be expecting, there are no LOTR type CGI massed army battles, although the final act set piece remains impressive.

Following a rout of the the ape colony “Caeser” is driven by a primal need for revenge, only heightened by further tragedy.

Driven onward, knowing this is likely to be his undoing, Caeser pursues his nemesis “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson). He is eventually helped in his quest by “Maurice” (Karin Konoval), “Luca” (Michael Adamthwaite) and “Rocket” (Terry Notary).

The group are joined by a young female mute human “Nova” (Amiah Miller) and “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn). A fellowship if you will, on a doomed quest to kill their tormentor.

It goes without saying that in the intervening years, the CGI ability has continued apace. We rarely now think of these creatures as anything but real, despite the huge computational power behind each frame.

Of course computers without actors providing the physical and emotional beats behind the motion capture (MoCap), would prove difficult, if not impossible. Especially with the emotional scenes and character arc’s depicted here.

Serkis again proves there should be an Oscar for such performances, capturing every nuance and feeling in what are, powerful and emotional scenes. Zahn provides some much needed comic relief albeit with depth and pathos, as the film remains somewhat downbeat. Also an ending that some more religiously minded, less Darwinian inclined minds might find difficult to stomach, if some IMDB review comments are anything to go by.

Harrelson channels his full “Apocalypse now” gone native vibe and runs with it. How his story is resolved is particularly unusual, satisfying and a welcome break from the usual mano-e-mano climatic battle.

The film edges into biblical type references and clearly refers to previous films and mythology. The MoCap acting is excellent throughout, with Serkis providing the central towering performance.

Gripes, this may not be the film you were looking for or expecting but bearing in mind the adult and intelligent themes of the previous entries, this should not come as a surprise.

This is a thoughtful, almost melancholy blockbuster quite unlike anything else this year. With touchstones of tolerance, “live and let live” and where obsession can lead, if you allow hate to consume you. Whether the final scenes indicate a necessary and vindicated  rebirth, or the end of the world we know it, may depend on your core beliefs.

I know which side of the barricade this viewer was cheering on….


A complicated yet satisfying ending to an excellent trilogy, which not only pushed the technical boundaries but also, allowed a complex story to be told.

Not the colossal battle maybe some might have wanted or expected but thought provoking and intelligent, although clearly not an approach appreciated by all