Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 14, 2017 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox
Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) and co-writer Mark Bomback conclude their depiction of the struggle of apes and mankind with unforeseen aplomb and humanity really handling their characters with dignity and grace.
They rise prolifically from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to War for the Planet of the Apes as the forces of shame and desperation collide with a civilization wanting to coexist in peace. The wizened primates are pretty much the center of attention with some returning human faces from Dawn like Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer.
An opening confrontation easily draws on the terror of soldiering through the woods after the now legendary, if still alive Caesar (expounded quite well in motion-capture form by Andy Serkis of The Forces Awakens and remembered for his 'Gollum'). Their leader is determined to eradicate the simians felt to be infringing on their existence — the primates' growth from human testing all but decimated the human population propagating a simian flu.
Caesar and his faithful dwell in a protected wooded enclave behind a roaring waterfall. Once found the apes go on the offensive and are very efficient to spare just enough combatants to deliver a message to their leader about wanting to be self-contained from their species and not being vicious or sadistic.
Nevertheless, that yields implacable results from a scary laser-lit nocturnal raid putting the apes in a difficult situation prompting an exodus from their hearth to seek asylum. The darker instincts of Caesar is fixed on going solo in retribution for his collective though some cohorts will accompany him on his perilous mission to kill the irrational, foreboding Colonel (Woody Harrelson of Wilson, The Edge of Seventeen) who feels he's doing right by his tenets. A young mute girl (Amiah Miller) from the epidemic is in tow along with a small, zany, cute mishandled zoo ape voiced by Steve Zahn with droll ebullience. A darkly startling reality is in store for them when they reach the Colonel's headquarters.
War from its moniker may seem action-packed but it's really more reflectively character-based and almost like a silent film for stretches. The script allows the actors to relate emotions in ways to execute a standard tale with altruistic poignancy even as the larger, significant, piercing set-pieces emerge near the denouement. Maybe the background of a condition and potential fate as related by the cruel Colonel needn't be present but offers clarity in a classical context of the canon which began from the prose of Pierre Bouille.
Where this shrewd revamping of a 'prequel' trilogy goes from here is up to conjecture to a degree, but this sweeping, concluding installment of the "Apes" ties together passion and tolerance like few others of its ilk and is quality tentpole summer entertainment at least on a par with the recent superhero extravaganza Wonder Woman. The ape effects from the WETA Workshop is important for the pragmatism and subtleties employed in a critically mounting situation. Serkis and Harrelson (no stranger to hit trilogies from The Hunger Games) really inspire the primal and perspicacity in this episode to spark the kind of dynamic that corresponds quite well with their nuanced, anguished but always proactive characters.
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