Story: An epic battle between apes and humans will decide the future of both species on the planet.
Review: It’s almost 50 years since the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ starring Charlton Heston hit the screens back in 1968, and shocked audiences with its grim outlook of a world where apes evolve over humans to become the dominant species. In the current blockbuster scenario dominated by superheroes and intergalactic battles, it’s a challenge for this premise (and rebooted franchise) to remain relevant. However, co-writer and director Matt Reeves knows exactly why the post-apocalyptic tale worked in the late 60s and returns to those narrative roots, keeping its essence firmly grounded.
Reeves goes beyond elaborate CGI, and explosive set-pieces to make this a purely human story, only told from the perspective of another species. This means most of the major acting goes to the man who has become synonymous with motion capture – Andy Serkis. His portrayal as Caeser – the highly evolved ape with the ability for human speech – is nothing short of stunning. Combined with the latest technology that renders the simians to near perfection, Serkis and the other actors behind these superior primates, are each given peculiar characteristics to make them truly unique. This lends additional credibility to the narrative, which relies heavily on the apes to make it work. Amongst the humans, the Colonel played by the ever so reliable Woody Harrelson, in what could easily pass off as a younger Walter E. Kurtz played by Marlon Brando in ‘Apocalypse Now’, is effective while Amiah Miller as Nova shares some poignant scenes with her simian counterparts. Although most of the proceedings are predominantly dire, Steve Zahn as the Bad Ape lightens the mood at appropriate moments to lend some humour, without going bananas.
Considering this is the third entry following ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’ in the rebooted franchise, ‘War’ builds on those two films but manages to succeed on its own two legs. Audiences unfamiliar with those events won’t feel entirely left out; there are a few callbacks along with minor exposition to fill those gaps. All of which to say this is a remarkable experience that should not be missed – ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant film that balances action and special effects well enough to make it stand out from all the blockbusters seen so far this year.