The film title says much for this film. However, there wasn’t as much “war” in the film as I (and maybe the audience) was led to believe. But of course, the film did not sway from active fight scenes that culminated into an explosive climax, which I think etched one of the most nostalgic, iconic images in film history.
The script, written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves, weaves a story of vengeance and redemption set in a world of discourse between apes and humans. Reeves seemingly directs this story flawlessly with emotion about how far an ape (or human) would go to protect his family. The cinematography by Michael Seresin reveals a cold, harsh world that one might feel in a time of war. The locations are carefully selected to propel the story and provide a vivid backdrop for the characters to inhabit. The musical score by Michael Giacchino adds to the live action and internal conflict of the characters, and it enhances even the most tender of moments in the film.
The 1968 original Planet of the Apes (written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling) was based off the novel by Pierre Boulle and depicted a world inhabited by intelligent apes and humans were oppressed and enslaved. That film spawned four sequels. And while they were interesting and exciting to watch at the time, I don’t believe they ever really explained how the apes became the dominant species. This new film series that began with 2001’s Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton seems to have developed the backstory behind the rise of the apes.
I will more than likely go back and review those films to refresh my memory. So those reviews will come in future posts.
But moving on.
In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released. And the great ape leader was introduced – Caesar (Andy Serkis). It showed how the apes became intelligent and learned how to speak. Three years later, war began to brew in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Now, another three years and Caesar (Serkis) is leading his ape family to a life of peace in the woods. But a formidable enemy known only as the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) has decided to take aim on the apes to rid their kind once and for all. After a battle in the woods, Caesar sends a small group of soldiers back to the Colonel with a message of peace if he does not attempt to pursue the apes any longer. The Colonel does not adhere to the message and attacks Caesar’s group, killing his wife and son. He then vows revenge on the Colonel and sends the rest of his group to find a new home. Caesar separates from the others to take his vengeance upon the Colonel. But some of his tribe cannot let him go alone so they follow him and eventually accompany Caesar on his journey.
War of the Planet of the Apes plays like a war film reminiscent of Platoon or Apocalypse Now. In fact, there is a moment in the beginning of the film where soldiers are searching for Caesar’s location and several soldiers are seen with graffiti on their helmets where one reads – “Ape-pocalypse Now.”
With that being said, the film is very much Caesar-centric. Most of the action of the narrative is focused on him where the audience is very much taken on his journey. We see the turmoil, anger, vengeance, and every human emotion Caesar encounters upon his quest for vengeance against the Colonel. Thus, the film is very much an emotional journey for the audience. From beginning to end, I was drawn into the story with every passing moment and character entanglement. At the final moment when the apes reach their new home, there is a moment where we see Caesar’s face and all the ghosts from the past fade away and we see now he knows they are home and there is hope for them in the future. That moment acts as a catharsis for the audience and for Caesar.
There is action and excitement, sentiment, heart, surprises, and humor to ease some of the tension and excitement. It seems to be a complete form of entertainment and has the makings of a summer blockbuster. And after seeing this film, I do want to go back and review the others in this film series as well as the original film series. War of the Planet of the Apes delivers big fun and an emotional journey for the summer.