Matt Reeves brings a close to one of the most epic sagas of modern cinema in War for the Planet of the Apes. And I can honestly say that there sure were plenty of unexpected surprises.
In reviewing War for the Planet of the Apes one can simply not overlook the phenomenal performance from lead actor Andy Serkis. Whether portraying Caesar as a young orphan in Rise or as a world-wearied leader in War, Serkis has been able to express a broad spectrum of emotions and behaviours that have made Caesar one of the most compelling characters in modern science fiction.
Without going into spoiler territory, Caesar faces some tough challenges between doing what is right as a leader versus what he feels he needs to accomplish on a personal level. At all times this interior battle plagues him and directs his decisions which makes for some great moments on the big screen.
While it’s difficult to upstage a performer like Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson comes pretty damn close.
His portrayal of the nameless military Colonel is filled with brutal efficiency, and his words and actions carry with them a chilling sense of belief that they are ordained by a higher power. The Colonel is an absolute zealot who fears for the end of days, and Harrelson’s trademark crazed wild-eyed stare certainly helped to convey this.
I would, however, caution fans to be prepared for the unexpected and the way that Reeves uses the Colonel narratively in the third act really took me by surprise. With all my time spent watching films I’m pretty adept at picking where a movie is going, but here I was definitely caught off guard.
While War for the Planet of the Apes packed plenty of big action set pieces, what made it appealing for me as a viewer was the importance that Reeves placed on his narrative. As a director, he was never overzealous to just use action for the sake of it, or to get a reaction from his audience. Instead, every pulse-pounding set piece leads further into the film’s dramatic narrative, which placed great attention to themes of family, belonging and home.
To see such attention given to ideas over action in a blockbuster of this size is certainly refreshing, and one hopes that we’ll see more of it in the future.
Another thing that informed War was Reeves well-known position as a pop-culture fanatic. To put it bluntly, his knowledge of this cinematic franchise really shows with plenty of easter eggs that long time fans will pick up on.
From the terrifying ‘scarecrows’ to the introduction of characters including Nova and Cornelius, who were a part of the original 1968 classic, these little details make War that much more special.
Packed with breathtaking CGI, a gripping narrative and asking some important questions, War for the Planet of the Apes was a thrill-ride that went beyond my own expectations. If you want to know who the real dominant species is on this planet, then I highly recommend you buy a ticket for this movie pronto.
Image: 20th Century Fox