When the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise restarted in 2011, the focus was on how the apes got started and how humans lost control of the planet. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” focused on Caesar (Andy Serkis) who become a genetically-enhanced ape. Then in 2014, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” moved forward with a large group of very intelligent apes fighting off the remaining humans, who had been killed off by a world-wide simian flu. The next movie is “War for the Planet of the Apes” and it brings the human/ape conflict to breaking point.
In this movie, the apes are gaining much more control. But there is a breakaway Army group that has a blood-lust for killing every last ape. Caesar is still in control, and the splinter military group is led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a sadistic monkey-killing machine. The Army group invades the apes’ nesting area, and Caesar’s wife is killed. He goes to seek revenge on The Colonel with his friends Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary). They meet up with an orphaned human girl, and decide she can come with. They call her Nova (Amiah Miller).
On the way they meet an escaped monkey from a zoo, who calls himself ‘Bad Ape’ (Steve Zahn). Bad Ape knows that The Colonel has camped in an abandoned weapons depot. The military has captured all the apes from Caesar’s village and are holding them as prisoners. Caesar is caught also, and he meets The Colonel who explains his plans. All the apes are used as forced labor to rebuild a defensive wall around the depot to protect the soldiers. Caesar correctly guesses that the wall is not being built to keep out the apes. The Colonel is building the wall to keep out the actual military, which are after The Colonel and his extremist ideas – and his radical followers.
The tiny group of apes outside the compound finds a way to get into the compound. Soon they are breaking out all the imprisoned apes, and even Caesar is let free, but first he must confront The Colonel one last time. He regular Army attacks, and all hell breaks loose. The apes have beaten the humans, and it may not be the last time…
This movie is the exciting conclusion of the rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy. The story is sleek and streamlined, with many references to other movies. There is a little bit of “Apocalypse Now”, “The Great Escape” and “Stalag 17”, along with shades of the Moses story from the Bible. Even with diverse sources, the movie ties it all together with a single sang. The motion-capture work done by the actors to play the apes is incredible. Andy Serkis would be an Oscar winner if they would give them out for “Best Performance as a Different Species”. Woody Harrelson is perfect playing a bat-crazy loon that happens to control a large cache of Army weapons. Steve Zahn does a great job being a bit of humor relief in a tense and serious movie.
The direction is direct and to-the-point, and gets you into the story with no problem. The cinematography is beautiful in the wide-open shots, and it can be frantic and driven in the battle scenes. The movie score is quite good and does not overload the action on screen. But the way the actors can make a fictional ape come alive with all the feelings and emotions, well — that is worth even a second viewing.
The original plan was to make these three movies for the ‘Planet of the Apes’ reboot project. But seeing how much better each movie has become, and how polished the story is progressing – it would not be a surprise to hear of a new effort in a short while. So if you are interested to see if the third picture is a series can be any good, then see this. There are no little yellow minions and no little cartoon cars. There is only a great story with an amazing amount of acting that is CGI-enhanced.