For a film with the word "War" in the title, one could expect a wall to wall extravaganza of Apes Vs Human battles in director Matt Reeves' War for the Planet of the Apes. There is plenty of ape action in this final installment of the Caesar (Andy Serkis) led Apes trilogy, but this entry is more of a personal tale about an ape dealing with loss, his legacy and trying not to be filled with hate like the humans even though that becomes harder and harder everyday the conflict grows.
War for the Planet of the Apes deals with the fallout from the people hating Koba's violent uprising that impacted the remaining human survivors and the ape society as well. Caesar's ape colony are now being hunted down for extermination by a crazed Colonel played by Woody Harrelson as a bizarro version of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. Instead of hiding out in the jungle though, this Colonel is a focused killer who will take any measures necessary to end the apes who he believes led to the fall of society due to the Simian Flu.
The Colonel is a step down in terms of villains compared to the last sequel with Koba who did have some grey area to his ape way of thinking, but the manic military man's actions drive all the important character drama that makes War for the Planet of the Apes so special. Andy Serkis once again is flat-out amazing providing the motion capture for the conflicted Caesar. The ape leader deals will all kinds of emotional baggage in War which includes vengeance taking over his mind while still trying to keep his ape family safe who constantly look to him for guidance. Serkis brings real emotion to Caesar in this final outing showing that his acting work in the Apes trilogy has been so much more than just a computer generated special effect.
There's definitely a good amount of monkey mayhem that will keep the audience entertained, but War for the Planet of the Apes is quite dark and packs an unexpected emotional punch in the finale. No matter how much the apes try to not be human, for better or worse they slowly become the thing they tried so hard to avoid. Sacrifice is a major theme in the movie with Caesar unsure of his fellow apes future place in this world and the humans holding onto what little they have left. Besides the unbelievable effects bringing the apes to life in War for the Planet of the Apes, Matt Reeves presents a beautifully shot film with great Easter Eggs and music that harken back to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film that serves as a solid ending to this Apes trilogy.
Overall, I give War for the Planet of the Apes 3.25 out of 4 stars.
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