Saturday, July 15, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

The Movie: War for the Planet of the Apes

The Director: Matt Reeves

The Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

The Story: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

The Review:
As a kid, I loved watching these movies and one of my favorite was Conquest of the Planet of the Apes because it was all out war and showed how the apes rose to power over the human race. For its time, the action was big with lots of gunfire, explosions, and general mayhem which was just awesome to watch whenever I could find it on TV. When the title for this film was released and realizing that the stakes were being raised from a battle to a war, I couldn't help but get excited for its eventual release. I mean, this was going to be all of my childhood apes dreams come to life, right? Right?

So, let's just get this out of the way right now. In the context I just mentioned, this movie was a bit of a disappointment. It is not the epic scale, special effects extravaganza I was hoping for and I feel like there was a lot left on the table when it was all said and done. I understand these movies have to be incredibly difficult to pull off, especially with the unbelievably detailed CGI work put in by Weta Digital but that doesn't mean I didn't have expectations and gosh darn it, my hopes and dreams needed to be realized. Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, let me tell you just how good this movie really is.

The main thing that needs to happen for lead actor Andy Serkis, and it needs to happen soon, is that he needs some sort of recognition for his ability to put Oscar caliber performances into the CGI characters he portrays. After he and Peter Jackson changed the film making industry with how they brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings movies, he has been nothing short of brilliant with everything he has done since and Caesar has to be the defining character of his career.

Not only does Serkis have to be an outstanding actor, he also has to do it while wearing motion capture suits that come with all kinds of little cameras, gadgets, sensors, and lights attached to them. To bring the character to life while turning in a commanding performance that is as gritty and emotionally affecting as anything else out there is no small feat and he does it better than anyone else in the business. His performance is quite honestly the key to making the whole trilogy work as you really have to believe in who Caesar is as he is evolving and, by the end of this movie, you really see him as a fully realized, intelligent leader.

Now let's talk about how beautiful this movie is. Sure, the film is intentionally dark, dreary, rainy, and features a muted color pallet, but it is quite honestly one of the most visually stunning movies you will watch this year. Every single ape is painstakingly detailed with so much color, texture, and life, you forget they were all created via key strokes and mouse clicks. There are also several panoramic shots of scenery and of action that make this a must see on a real life movie theater screen. Whatever you do, do not wait to watch this movie on your puny little TV at home. Yes, I know you recently upgraded, but it's still not the same.

The Verdict:
War for the Planet of the Apes is a very well thought out movie that fits nicely both as a finale to the current trilogy as well as being a connective thread to the original films. (In case you didn't know, this is a continuation of the series from the 1970's and not a reboot.) While not the all out spectacle I was hoping for, it is still a very solid effort and a classic underdog story that draws influences from films like the original Star Wars trilogy and Apocalypse Now while focusing on creating a nice balance between quality story telling and big screen theatrics.

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