REVIEW – WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
The final episode in a prequel trilogy to the 1960s-70s original series, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is another stunningly realised science fiction drama which is for the most part every bit as impressive as the previous two films in the revived series, and brings things to a fitting and satisfying conclusion.
The effects work is seamless, and the title characters are convincing both as apes and as distinct personalities with inner lives and conflicts. Director Matt Reeves handles the action set pieces with confidence, and Andy Serkis gives perhaps an even better performance this time, as Caesar has more of a character arc – although Steve Zahn almost steals the film from him as the touching and hilarious ‘Bad Ape’.
The story dovetails neatly with the original films and presents a mostly convincing look at a world ravaged by disease and almost entirely abandoned to the elements and animals. In spite of the title there is perhaps less action in this film than in the previous episode, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, but this leaves more room for introspection and character development.
One downside is the length: a fairly simple linear story is stretched to two hours and twenty minutes (it could easily have been cut to two hours), and the middle section of the film seems to drag on forever. Reeves’ efforts to imbue the movie with a sense of gravitas and conclusion is fine, but some individual scenes hang around for far longer than is necessary, with repetition and lingeringly held close-ups long after the point of the scene has been made. And there are some weird lapses in logic that break the spell somewhat, such as characters have sign language conversations without actually looking at each other; one character infiltrating the baddies’ base without being seen despite walking across wide open spaces; and the fact that at key moments the soldiers suddenly lose the ability to shoot straight at point-blank range!
But otherwise this is an exciting and emotionally satisfying war drama with a refreshingly upbeat ending that does justice to a series worked hard to be more than just digging up an old franchise and, much like the simians themselves, battled beyond simply aping the previous efforts roots and evolved into a separate and distinct identity to be proud of.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a dark and at times violent drama, with numerous scenes of shown or implied suffering. But it’s also a powerful drama with moments of levity and even humour, and the ending implies a much brighter future than the dark and desperate times shown in the rest of the film. However, due to the tension and extent of the fighting and death on-screen we would recommend that this movie is suitable only for children aged 10 and over.
- Violence: 3/5 (regular scenes of battle and both large-scale and intimate scenes of violence and physical torture.)
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (characters are shown distressed at witnessing the suffering or death of friends and family)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (high tension and peril throughout)
- Sexual Content: 0/5 (no sexual references)
- Bad Language: 1/5 (a couple of moderate curse words)
- Dialogue: 2/5 (verbal references to murder, genocide and disease)
- Other notes: (deals with themes of martyrdom and sacrifice, genocide and war)