War for the Planet of the Apes – movie review

This is the third and climactic chapter in the recent trilogy about apes versus humans. There was Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 and now War for the Planet of the ApesBut Planet of the Apes goes back to 1968, when Charlton Heston was cast.

In this one, ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) is compelled to lead his young society to a new home. Yet the struggle between his belief in family and honour and the lure of a vengeful reckoning churns within him. At heart, this is the story of both a military and emotional last stand. Peace between species has collapsed. A renegade band of human soldiers led by the imperious Colonel makes a final, all out attack. Caesar is hit with personal loss and a dark line inside his psyche is crossed. Now, he is wrestling with merciless impulses and roiling doubts about his ability to inspire apes towards freedom. But if the apes are to survive the coming conflict, Caesar must be the simian to stand up.  

Andy Serkis returns as Caesar; with Karin Konoval as his trusted advisor Maurice, and Terry Notary as his right hand-man Rocket. The key new characters include Woody Harrelson as the cruel Colonel, who believes only an apocalyptic war can salvage the last vestiges of humankind. Steve Zahn is cast as Bad Ape, a lonely chimp who brings heart and humour to the apes in their darkest hour; while Amiah Miller is Nova, the human child who becomes an unexpected link between the apes and humans. Ty Olsson plays a turncoat gorilla known as “Donkey”.

I must say I am over Planet of the Apes. Somehow, I felt this one was deeply flawed, and more preposterous than most. Interminably long, with plot holes you can drive a truck through, it takes its sweet time to get to the main act. Director Matt Reeves also co-wrote this and directed the last installment, which was also overly long at 2 hours 10 minutes. Doesn’t he understand the meaning of the word “cut”? Having sat through this piffle, I think not.

It is a lunchtime telemovie at best. Even Woody Harrelson’s bluster can’t break through the crud that underpins this film. I kept thinking if his character had simply killed Caesar in the first place, his nefarious plans wouldn’t have been interrupted. So many years on, very few apes talk. The rest communicate through signing or grunts and the faux English “translation” appears on the screen. We’ve seen that many times before, but it makes just as little sense to me now as it did every other time this device was used. 

An angelic mute little girl quickly forms an attachment to the apes and effortlessly avoids guards to give Caesar renewed hope. Really? You’ve got to be kidding. And then you have an escaped zoo chimp providing comic relief.

Many of the early scenes are accompanied by languid classical music. Why? I really don’t understand. This is a very wet Planet of the Apes, which is far from convincing in every way that matters. In short, the filmmakers have spent far too much time monkeying around for my liking. Rated M, War for Planet of the Apes scores a 4 out of 10.

Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Steve Zahn
Release Date: 27 July 2017
Rating: M

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: