War for the Planet of the Apes Review

18 Jul

There’s a tendency these days to qualify any evaluation of a blockbuster film with the word “blockbuster”. “It’s great for a blockbuster.” “It’s a smart blockbuster.” “It’s just a fun summer blockbuster.” This trend does not occurs sans reason: the big, lumbering studios churning out remarkably low quality CGI fare at a record pace, and we the consumers facilitating that by constantly handing over our hard earned money. I don’t want to tell people what they should and shouldn’t enjoy, but people sure do get defensive about others affording their “blockbusters” the same level of respect that arthouse fare should receive, i.e. the critical evaluation of a film on its own merits without any sort of preconceived bias toward the style of film. By shielding certain filmmaking from criticism because it’s “just a blockbuster”, you are in fact denigrating it as a film and denigrating the blockbuster as a valuable art form. What I therefore want to make very clear is that this apes trilogy isn’t just a good blockbuster trilogy; it’s damn good filmmaking overall and one of the most impressive feats in recent film history.

The CGI and cinematography are absolutely stunning. This is the apex of the intersection between computer-based technology and the human eye, and it continues to impress just how real the apes and their environments look. This is essential because of how much focus the series places on the apes as living, breathing characters, complicating our sympathies and searching for the souls within those furry bodies. Additionally, it’s been said before and I’ll say it again: Andy Serkis gives a monumental performance in this series as Caesar (shoutouts to Toby Kebbell as Kobo and Karin Konoval as Maurice), and the amount he’s asked to do surpasses even the most complex of roles. War tests Caesar in a way that he’s never experienced before, with large scale questions about existence and nature clashing with smaller scale questions about family and leadership. Serkis is thoroughly up to the task, and it’s a pleasure to watch.

I would be lying if I said that this final installment wasn’t a little disappointing. Certain plot points and characters feel half baked and rushed, especially with regards to the new characters; there are great moments and ideas in here, but not all of them flow like they need to. Perhaps some of my disappointment stems from comparisons to the operatic emotional and action heights I thought Dawn reached–though it focused more on some weak human characters–a film I will sing the praises of to the day I die. What I do appreciate, however, is War remaining committed to telling the story it wants to tell without giving in to the expectations set by the title. Though both films set up different populations and territories and conflicts within those territories, Dawn asked why we fight and War asks what happens to us as the result of fighting. It’s a thoughtful, elegiac piece at times, with its various influences–classic war films, westerns, Biblical imagery–playing off of each other fairly nicely. With stretches of minimal dialogue, less all out war, and the exploration of complex themes, Matt Reeves and co. exhibit a very respectable amount of restraint, especially for a concluding chapter to a trilogy about war. So back to my opening paragraph: we inevitably craft a mold for blockbuster films by simply accepting the same formula for whatever the studios churn out, but that overlooks the possibility of films like this. There’s so much room to still grow from under the blockbuster umbrella, to still help out filmmakers like Reeves who don’t have to be tied down by a descriptor.

Ultimately, War is a great film that concludes the trilogy in grand fashion. What I love about these three movies is their desire to question, to engage the audience as they complicate the lines between humans and apes. They get you to care about motion capture creations, to become invested in the stories that are told about them. That’s no small feat, and that is precisely what will make this series–at least in my opinion–go down as one of the all time greats. It is the work of virtuosos who understand how to make a goddamn series, and we all need to take note.



8 Responses to “War for the Planet of the Apes Review”

  1. peggyatthemovies July 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Loved it. and great review. I like your point on stating this one asks what happens to us as a result of fighting. Good point. Truthfully I walked into the screening thinking meh.. another trilogy bad movie kinda thing.. and within moments did a 360. I really enjoyed it. Glad you did to.

  2. MovieManJackson July 23, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    Love your opening part about blockbusters. If it’s good, it’s good. I too think this trilogy has been awesome, but this is a notch below Dawn. Found that movie’s writing more subtle in its themes than this one.

  3. Ricardo July 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

    I mentioned before how we have invented an entirely new standard for grading movies. There are the regular movies, and then we have the blockbuster superhero movies.
    “Good for superhero, bad for superhero”, blah blah. I do not like it, because it feels we are giving the latter category some slack.

  4. Flemming Erik Carlson July 25, 2017 at 1:03 am #

    I loved it! More than I thought I would. I rank it right up there under the original Charlton Heston film. Very well done.


  1. War For The Planet of the Apes | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES - July 20, 2017

    […] Polar Bears insist “this apes trilogy isn’t just a good blockbuster trilogy; it’s damn good filmmaking overall.” […]

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