And The Feel Good Movie of the Year Award Goes to ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ (Movie Review)

Considering that both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were two of my favorite films in the years they came out I felt confident War for the Planet of the Apes is set up for success.  After all, how could it not be under the studious care of Matt Reeves in the director’s chair once again?  That’s what you call a rhetorical question ladies and gentlemen.  This final chapter in the trilogy is both an emotional rollercoaster and cinematic event not to be missed.  I could go on and on about how much adoration I have this one, but to do so would kind of be like putting the cart in front of the horse in this review proverbially speaking.  So let’s back up, take it slow and ease into this review by covering all the who’s who in War for the Planet of the Apes, the third installment thus far in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.  What say you?  I’m ready to get this war started!

I already spilled the beans up above about the director and all, but also I failed to mentioned he played an instrumental role in writing this one too along with Mark Bomback.  In addition to these aforementioned talented fellows War for the Planet of the Apes stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer and Terry Notary.  Just to note this adventure is set two years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where Caesar (Serkis) and his clan of apes are still embroiled in a war against humans.  Furthermore, Caesar is still haunted by the memory of Koba, which with each passing day he himself wrestles with much the same angst that plagued his fallen comrade.

War for the Planet of the Apes

The way in which War for the Planet of the Apes opens is quite crafty.  We’re instantly greeted by some playful text announcing Caesar is a highly wanted man (err I mean ape), but it’s the soldiers sneaking up in the woods that immediately drops you into tension filled lives of the apes always on the run here.  Obviously, you’re going to need to go into this one armed with the fact that you’re about to witness a lot of monkey genocide.  There ain’t no middle ground or way around that here.  Sadly my fiancee won’t even watch this one because of that fact.  War for the Planet of the Apes is a long journey clocking in at almost two and a half hours and the whole time is one kick to the nut after another.  It’s very brutal in its approach and depressing/oppressive in its tone.  Despite my title up above it’s NOT the feel good movie of the year.  I was being sarcastic.  It is a great movie though!  However, make no mistake about it, this isn’t your father’s Planet of the Apes despite the reminiscent aloof score of the older predecessors that have come before.  This is the continuing saga of Caesar’s plight to avoid war whenever possible, but protect his fellow apes and family at all costs (like any good leader really would do).

War for the Planet of the Apes

Speaking of Caesar though the guy just can’t let bygones be bygones.  As the ape population decreases due to its ongoing war casualties, Caesar wrestles with his inner dark demons implanted there by Koba (in the last movie).  He’s hellbent on avenging his fallen companions.  The heartache of it all though is it’s not all humans killing apes, it’s also apes working in cahoots with humans too.  Caesar has conflicting thoughts it seems whenever he comes to face-to-face in confrontations.  He always seems to take the higher road.  Then “the” encounter happens which will forever forge Caesar’s destiny, the Colonel (Harrelson) of the plaguing human army makes his presence known to him in the worst possible way.  He commits an unspeakable act that Caesar cannot just let go of.  Despite good advice form his trusted orangutan advisor, Maurice (Konoval), Caesar is unable to relinquish his quest to eradicate the Colonel from the face of the Earth.  See the Koba relation now?

War for the Planet of the Apes

The main gist of our story kind of starts here.  A small band of apes now become the hunters, but they gravely underestimate their human adversaries and aren’t prepared for what they’re about to find.  It’s a winter wonderland so to speak.  Therefore, a bulk of the film’s runtime is chewed up by the horrible predicament Caesar and his followers allow themselves to fall into.  Believe me when I say it’s nearly hell on Earth.  At times it almost feels like you’re watching The Passion of the Christ.  It’s literally that bleak and heartbreaking.  I sure hope no Batman v Superman haters are watching this.  LOL.  Relax!  I’m joking.  It’s in reference to how depressing this one can get at times.  There’s comedic moments here and there, but it’s definitely not your pick-me-up summer blockbuster.  That much is for sure.

I don’t know what it is, but try as I might as much as I rooted Caesar on in the first two outings I have grown a bit wearisome now to his character’s plight here.  He’s obviously tired and so am I seeing all this horrible stuff happen to this poor ape.  I mean I feel for him, but it’s agonizing to see what his life has become for him because of his bad choices and ill human intentions.  I said it before and I’ll say it again that it’s definitely not the happy go lucky, quirky Planet of the Apes I grew up with in my childhood.  This is serious wartime here.  However, no matter how ultra serious and brutal things get there’s one character who always put a smile on my face throughout here.  No, it wasn’t the usual Maurice, but a new chimpanzee who goes by the name of Bad Ape (Zahn).  The way he talks, looks, dresses and interacts with others and his environments will have you in stitches throughout.  He’s definitely the bankable ace in the hole here.  Just the way he’s introduced is both brilliant and shocking too.  Enough said!

War for the Planet of the Apes

So long story short, War of the Planet of the Apes is epic, emotionally gripping and rousing all at the same time.  I will go on record saying I did not enjoy it as much as I did its predecessors, but that probably has something to do with the grim magnitude of deaths throughout.  Characters you know and love are going to die here.  It’s heartbreaking.  I walked out of the theater loving what I just saw, but at the same time I feel like I was punched really hard in my stomach.  I walked out to my car with a very heavy heart.  I wanted so much to change the ending.  It wasn’t climatic for me.  It was the opposite.  I know it’s a start of where the apes go next in life and how they choose to live their lives and evolve, but it’s so damn depressing.  Now I am starting to sound like those Batman v Superman haters.  Sigh.  There was also nothing after the credits so when they roll you’re safe to bury your face in the Kleenex I hope you brought with you.

I read something on Facebook today about how one writer wishes the Academy would pay attention to a film like this with motion capture performances.  Now I got to be honest with you.  Despite the long run time not once did I ever question the authenticity of an ape or an onscreen environment.  They all looked freaking phenomenal.  I may be just watching zeroes and ones, but it didn’t feel like it.  I connected with the onscreen CG drama just like I would with any other human performance that has come before.  That’s a testament to not only Reeves and his direction, but the actors who performed the motion capture and how far we have “evolved” with the technology itself.  We’ve come a long way since the likes of Sir Jar Jar Banks.  In addition to all the mo-cap performances we still have the likes of Woody Harrelson in the antagonist role.  He was a great villain!  However, I just wish that final battle between him and you know who went down better.  I wanted more!  And the little girl you see in the trailers, poster, etc. well she’s the glue that keeps everything together.  Without saying a word young Amiah Miller will melt your hearts and that of the apes too.  I’m just saying!

War for the Planet of the Apes

So that’s about all I can really say about War of the Planet of the Apes without venturing into spoiler territory.  It definitely needs to be seen, but heed my warning.  Bring your Kleenex!  It’s not a happy movie. There are numerous fist pounding, rousing moments and others of sheer laughter and enjoyment, but the sad factor outweighs everything here.  Caesar’s arc and storyline as the fearless leader of the apes comes full circle with things here.  You may or may not like the ending.  I kind of don’t, but I’m selfish for my reasons.  However, I guess the point I’m trying to make is be prepared, don’t hold back the tears and just lose yourself in this epic, cinematic journey Reeves, Serkis and the rest of the gang takes us on.  The Apes are STRONG in this one!  Bet strong with them.  Rise…Dawn…War!


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

4 Responses to “And The Feel Good Movie of the Year Award Goes to ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’m actually with you in liking ‘Dawn’ more. There’s a lot of amazing to see in ‘War’, but not quite as re-watchable.

  2. Brian White

    Interesting. Do you feel it was because of how punishing it was that it’s kind of too hard to watch (repeat viewings) or is there structure/story reasons you feel the way you do? Or am I just going to have to wait for your review? 🙂

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    It’s impressive without being that much “fun” if you know what I mean.

  4. Brian White

    Yes I know exactly what you mean!