War for the Planet of the Apes Review

I just had an exhilarating experience at the movies! I saw all 3 Planet of the Apes movies including the latest film War for the Planet of the Apes. This was a special marathon screening, which allowed me to see it a day earlier than the wide release preview screenings tomorrow. It all worked out perfectly for me because I leave for D23 in the morning and wouldn’t have been able to see it for a couple of weeks otherwise.

Anyway, what did I think of the experience?  Honestly I feel a little overwhelmed and wouldn’t write this review but I know I won’t have any other time to do so because of D23.

Let’s talk about the series. I love this series. It is one of my favorite trilogies. I love the special effects, characters, writing and everything else. On the rewatch they all held up quite well. I still have to debate which is my favorite but they are honestly quite different.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a well executed scifi/monster movie with real heart. They were still working on the special effects and the middle lags a bit but the relationships and ending are amazing.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an emotional film while still managing to be entertaining. I love Gary Oldman in it and the moment when he is able to see his children’s photos again I’ll never forget. I love Caesar and Koba’s different perspectives on war and diplomacy. It is full of emotional moments and characters and I love it.

So here we get to the latest entry War for the Planet of the Apes. Wow! It’s tough for me to describe the experience I had. It was honestly different than what I was anticipating. I think Dawn is more of a Rambo-esque war movie so I suppose that is what I was expecting but this is different. It’s a brutal tense prisoner of war movie for most of the film.

I don’t want to give much of the plot away but basically Caesar and his people come into contact with a radical military group led by The Colonel played by Woody Harrelson. At first they play cat and mouse with each other and then it becomes a prison experience and it can be very tough to watch. I haven’t seen a movie this brutal on its characters since Silence, which I hated but this has much more humanity and redemption than that film. It also explores themes of forgiveness, mercy and compassion in powerful ways.

All of the characters get moments to shine even Koba gets a bit of redemption in a way. I particularly loved Maurice (he’s always been a favorite of mine). He adopts a mute little girl along the way and she is a symbol of hope throughout the film.

Director Matt Reeves and his team should be very proud of what they have accomplished with this film. It is the least rewatchable of the apes movies but that’s not a bad thing. It was visceral, brutal and thought provoking. The visuals are flawless. Andy Serkis is amazing playing Caesar and you completely forget these aren’t actual apes but men in motion capture suits.  Congrats to all involved for an amazing trilogy and for ending on such a bold film and hats off to Fox for allowing them to make it. Incredible.

I wouldn’t be surprised if War for the Planet of the Apes is the most divisive of the three films.  I loved it but it is violent and somewhat unrelentingly bleak. They have a comic relief of an ape called Bad Ape but it is few and far between. If you love these characters it can be hard to watch them suffer so much. Also the way it uses music builds anxiety to the max for the viewer. Not everyone will like this.

There is also some fairly heavy handed social commentary with the Colonel building a wall and some other plot points that might annoy people. I thought it was handled well but I can see it annoying others.

All that said, I loved this film. It was an amazing ending for the trilogy and I left feeling like I had seen something truly special. It is challenging but in a good way and the ending was pitch perfect. If you love this trilogy you’ve got to see it!

Overall Grade- A


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