War for the Planet of the Apes (M)

In a word: Satisfying

War for the Planet of the Apes

COMMANDING ROLE: Caesar (Andy Serkis), leader of the apes. PICTURE: © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

 

"There’s plenty of parallels that can be drawn from the story but ultimately this is a film about what defines humanity (and it's often the apes who exemplify that, though not always - there are plenty of ape 'traitors' here) and an exploration of what happens when war is about race (or, in this case, species). With enough plot twists to keep things interesting, as was the case with the earlier films, the costumes, special effects and CGI are good enough to allow you to suspend disbelief when it comes to talking apes."

The third instalment in the prequels to the classic Planet of the Apes films of the Sixties and Seventies (well, sort of, we're yet to see how well they ultimately mesh although all indications are good), War picks up where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes left off.

To recap: A drug was invented which enhanced the brains of great apes to the extent they could talk while proving fatal to most of humanity, sparking global conflict among men and leaving behind a devastated world where humans eked out an existence among the ruins of their civilization.

In California, the apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) created a home in the Redwood forests north of San Francisco but they soon came into conflict with the humans living in the city and, thanks to the treachery of an ape named Koba (Toby Kebbell) and the desire of some humans to kill the apes, there is a short war between the two species before, following Koba’s death, peace is agreed.

War picks up the story a couple of years later – 10 years have passed since the virus wiped out most of humanity and the apes have retreated deeper into the forest, hunted without mercy by a human military officer, known simply as the Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson), who was first summoned by a distress call from the humans in San Francisco back when there was fighting in the city.

Caesar has become the stuff of legend – a celebrated leader among the apes and a frightening bedtime story the humans tell their children – and the Colonel and his men are determined to wipe them out.

Things take a tragic turn when, during a raid on the apes’ home, the Colonel personally kills Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, and eldest son, Blue Eyes. Left only with his young son, Cornelius, Caesar orders the apes to abandon their home and head east into the desert where they can establish a new home out of reach of the humans.

But, bent on avenging the deaths of his wife and child, he decides to seek out the Colonel alone and kill him. Ignoring the reservations of those closest to him and filled with hate for the Colonel, he sets out to do so, only reluctantly agreeing to take his oldest friend Maurice (Karin Konoval) with him as well as two warriors, Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite).

During their journey to find the human military base where the Colonel is headquartered, they encounter an orphaned human girl, Nova (Amiah Miller) who Maurice takes under his wing against the wishes of Caesar and a former zoo ape (and comic foil), known as Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who can lead them to their goal.

On finding the Colonel's base, however, they are horrified to discover the apes have all been captured in Caesar’s absence and are now working as slaves for the Colonel. Caesar and his companions face the difficult task, not just of killing the Colonel, but of rescuing the apes.

As the title suggests, there’s more military might in this film than has previously been the case and a couple of large scale battle scenes. The pace, as was the case with the previous two films (also directed by Matt Reeves), remains frenetic but it’s Caesar who once again steals the show – this time along with his nemesis the Colonel.

There’s plenty of parallels that can be drawn from the story but ultimately this is a film about what defines humanity (and it's often the apes who exemplify that, though not always - there are plenty of ape 'traitors' here) and an exploration of what happens when war is about race (or, in this case, species). With enough plot twists to keep things interesting, the costumes, special effects and CGI are once again of such high quality as to allow you to suspend disbelief when it comes to talking apes.

A satisfying third outing.