Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes
PG-13 | 2h 20min
Director: Matt Reeves
by Jason Koenigsberg
One of the more successful franchise remakes this decade has been Fox’s reboot of The Planet of the Apes movies. With it’s third and likely final film in the renewed post apocalyptic saga War of the Planet of the Apes solidifies this franchise as the best trilogy of the decade.
We open up with some text to catch the audience up on the previous two films, how the Rise of the apes occurred and eventually brought them to the Dawn of two intellectual species dominating the Earth and that resulted in the War they are in now. Our opening shot also provided immediate social commentary on our nations militaristic culture and how it is easy for Americans to look down upon another group and label our enemy. We see “Monkey Killer”, “Bedtime for Bonzo” (a political and movie reference to Ronald Reagan), and “Endangered Species” written on the soldiers helmets. It then goes right into a bloody battle as the soldiers we watched march through the forest fight the apes in a scene reminiscent of the opening combat from Gladiator (2000).
War of the Planet of the Apes has beautiful cinematography with lush greens and a strong focus on nature early on. The theme of nature has been substantial in all of the Planet of the Apes films going all the way back to the 1968 original. Nature will always triumph over man and ape. Later the color scheme changes to more drabby black, white and grays as the film shifts into a more harsh war movie and an even more brutal prison movie. This felt like it combined Planet of the Apes with The Great Escape (1962) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
The music score by Michael Giacchino is complimentary to the script and also recalls the strangeness of the earlier films music in an understated way that may go unnoticed if the audience does not listen carefully. War of the Planet of the Apes is brilliant in the way that it accomplishes a lot without dialogue. A good portion of this film is told simply through actions, scenery, facial expressions and gestures. Rarely has a summer blockbuster been able to move it’s story forward successfully with so many subtleties. War of the Planet of the Apes treats its audience with a lot of intelligence that is uncommon in most big studio pictures.
That does not mean that this movie is perfect. It has it’s flaws. Some plot points are extremely manipulative to the characters trying to tug at the audiences heartstrings a little too much. Other plot points are predictable and can be seen coming a mile away. Plus, at one stage of the story they omit all logic and give these apes a sense of direction that is better than any GPS. There are many anti-military ideas and a clear liberal agenda in War of the Planet of the Apes that works most of the time. It is successful as a metaphor on slavery, race relations, poverty and prison reform, however it’s images and blatant commentary on Trump and his “wall” (which the way his presidency is going will never get built) was a bit too heavy handed and obvious. The strength’s clearly outweigh the very few weaknesses and make this film the best movie of the summer thus far.
The biblical imagery surrounding Caesar is obvious but very effective especially poignant with its usage of Christ and Exodus portrayals. War of the Planet of the Apes has a strong moral and by the end the audience will agree that war is never the answer. It’s powerful depiction of the army as barbaric single minded killers illustrates that war brings out the worst in any species.