ReelBob: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ ★★★
By Bob Bloom
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a solidly entertaining feature that advances the franchise.
Yet, it lacks that extra spark that raises it to a level of memorable or unforgettable.
The third movie in this rebooted series is explosive and — taking into account today’s political climate — relevant.
It is a film that touches upon what it is to be human and what it may take to push an individual to savagery.
Caesar and his community of primates are living peacefully in a forest, away from humankind.
But a group of soldiers attacks the apes, slaughtering many before being brutally repulsed. Caesar allows a few to live, sending them back to their Colonel (Woody Harrelson) with a message — leave us alone. We simply want to live in peace and unmolested.
But the maniacal colonel does not accept Caesar’s olive branch, launching another attack that hits much too close to home for the ape leader.
One of this movie’s drawbacks is Harrelson’s performance. It is the weakest in the drama. His colonel — who is never named — is a one-dimensional madman — a sort of Marlon Brando “Apocalypse Now” Kurtz-lite — whose only objective is to obliterate every primate he and his troops encounter.
Director Matt Reeves, who also helmed the previous “Apes” movie, has created a believable community with a social structure befitting the apes.
What elevates this series, of course, is the technological advances that allow the use of motion-capture, computer-generated cinematography to create a world of apes that is much more believable than the actors in masks and makeup that were used in the original movies of the 1960s and ’70s.
That same professionalism is evident in the way Reeves and his screenwriters have crafted the major ape characters.
Caesar (another impressive performance by Andy Sirkis) allows a thirst for revenge to overrule his primary responsibility of looking out for the other apes. Ignoring his better judgment, Caesar follows his darker instincts.
Instead of personally leading them to safety, he abandons his charges to hunt for the colonel exact retribution.
The movie’s narrative is powerful and, at times, poignant, especially after Caesar’s charges are captured, and the colonel and his army use them as slaves.
“War,” at times, becomes almost biblical in nature with Caesar as a primate Moses trying to lead the flock to a promised land away from humans.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a summer blockbuster told with skill that entertains, as well as offering some ideas that make you ponder whether humans are as advanced as we think we are.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), graphic violence and action, disturbing images, language