“War for the Planet of the Apes” Review

Story:

“War for the Planet of the Apes” plays like a mash-up of about five different movies, but at least one of them feels like a masterpiece.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Imagine in a different universe, where the Star Wars prequel trilogy is even better than the original masterpiece — yep, that’s how great the rebooted Planet of the Apes trilogy has achieved. The last chapter has finalized the transition of Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) from a mutated lab chimpanzee in “Rise” to a military leader in “Dawn” and then to the Moses-like figure in “War”.

In some way, this movie feels more like Empire Strikes Back though being the last one — it is the best out of the three, features a epic battle in the snow and has the darkest tone. The movie starts in the Californian woods (nice callback to “Dawn”), but soon turns into a road trip movie of Caesar and his buddies (all returning from previous installments), then a prison-escape heist , and finally a blockbuster action war movie in a good way.

The movie never constrains itself to one genre, just like “Apocalypse Now”, which director/writer Matt Reeves draws his major inspiration from. And the close similarity may be one of the few shortcomings of this movie, since “War” attempts to tell a complex, philosophical story as “Apocalypse Now” did, but lacks good execution. The director tries to create dilemma, but ends up having the audience cheering for the Apes most of the time.

Acting:

“Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar is one of the marvels of modern screen acting” — A.O. Scott, New York Times

This video shows the amount of dedication Andy Serkis has put into portraying a motion-captured character on the big screen. And even better, he is companied by a huge team of motion-capture actors/actresses who have skills on same level. When watching the movie, you really feel like there is a group of live apes talking to each other, rather than Andy Serkis talking to a bunch of CGI animation.

The Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson), as the villain, surprisingly lacks depth compared to all the CGI characters. Again, this character is mainly inspired by Marlon Brando’s character in “Apocalypse Now”, but instead of a complex, fully-developed maniac military leader, we are only getting a 2D figure who wants to kill all the Apes. The good side is Harrelson still did a decent acting job, and character’s motivation is fully explained in the movie.

Final Score: A

A must-see in the theatre. A blockbuster with a heart to be a philosophical drama and political thriller.

About the Author:
Roger Zhu is a PhD student studying Mechanical Engineering at University of Virginia. His research focus on biomechanics and fluid dynamics behind fish swimming. During his leisure time, he enjoys watching movies (obviously) and playing all kinds of instruments.

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