War for the Planet of the Apes continues the intricate storytelling that made Rise and Dawn such great experiences. There was a lot to live up to after the success of the first two films, and War succeeded spectacularly. The new Apes films have done something that most newer movies struggle with… they make you really care for the characters even with minimal dialogue. Prior to 2009’s Rise, it was hard to imagine a remake of the Apes franchise that would not feel campy. After all, if a dinstinguished director like Tim Burton couldn’t bring it back, it seemed as if no one could. But then, Rupert Wyatt came along and totally changed the narrative for the better. Matt Reeves has continued what Wyatt started and has successfully ended the franchise with a fitting finale.
The first movie caught audiences off guard by telling a grounded story about a young ape named Caesar whose mother was killed by a misunderstanding of her behavior. Once he was taken home and we experienced his upbringing, it was hard not to feel sympathy for Caesar. He grew up in a loving home, but he soon began to realize that he was not the same as the rest of his family. As Caesar struggled to find his place in our world, he formed a bond with other apes that eventually led to him establishing a settlement with his own ape family. Throughout Dawn, the apes tried to live in harmony with the remaining humans, but the humans where not able to accept the apes and eventually attacked them and reported their whereabouts to an elite army unit. This is where War for the Planet of the Apes picks up.
Caeser’s ape settlement is being hunted by the group of soldiers led by the Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson. The Colonel is determined to wipe out the apes because he believes this is the only way the human race can survive. Harrelson gives a great performance as the hardened and unforgiving Colonel, and Andy Serkis continues to bring an enormous amount of emotion to Caesar through his motion capture suit. The realism of the apes improves even more in this film as snow delicately clings to their fur as they traverse the northern landscape in search of the Colonel.
This film also sees the world we know from the original 1968 Apes movie start to come together. A mute human child named Nova is found by Caesar as he makes his way north, and his new son, Cornelius, is the only remaining member of his family after they are murdered by the Colonel. The simian virus is also beginning to have another effect on the remaining humans as they are slowly starting to lose their ability to speak and are becoming more animal in nature. These things of course are all leading us to the original story where Charlton Heston lands to find a planet of mute humans, meets a talking ape named Cornelius, and befriends a mute human named Nova.
It is unclear if there are plans to continue the series to reimagine the first apes movie now that the story is at that point, but if it is continued, you can be sure that it will be done with the same careful crafting as the previous three films. War for the Planet of the Apes was a fitting end for the trilogy that leaves you hoping there will be another installment.
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