War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) Review

director: Matt Reeves

writers: Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves

starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn

genre: Action | Drama | Sci-fi

released: 13 July 2017 (Greece), 14 July 2017 (USA), 27 July, 2017 (Australia), 3 August 2017 (Germany)

This must be the most consistent, engaging and entertaining Hollywood series of the last few years. A series that has gone above and beyond in bringing another reality to life, getting its lead characters to go on conflicting journeys that they don't know if they will return from and providing us with bleak endings where hope can still exist, but also even respect for one's enemies. Film schools should be teaching their students about the 'Apes' trilogy's achievements as there is a lot to learn and admire.

story:

After the events of ‘Dawn’ and the revolt by Koba on the joint ape & human population. Caesar has taken his apes to hide in the woods from the leftover human forces to fend off their attacks and significant advances. Ambivalence in the ape community exists on what action they should take in their struggle against them and with things only getting worse when they come to find out the tricks the humans have up their sleeves.

thoughts:

Several things happened in the film that are contrary to the film's trailers and to the way in general Hollywood films are formulated. This made the film for many into a more unexpected and delightful roller-coaster that had us clenching for more. Which could be taken both negatively or positively on how it benefits the series future, while also the film itself as a standalone experience. As these specific events that take place and the story twists that occur from character deaths to the fighting between apes and man, isn’t what many thought the series would go towards. 

For instance (spoilers ahead), after the last film and from the trailers many believed this time it would be the Apes who were on top and taking the fight to the human population. Something that I was personally completely wrong about. As the apes are now being pushed further down the totem pole of power and fighting tooth and nail to keep themselves going as a race. This results in the film being as equally as dark and dramatic as the second and again ambiguous in its conclusion to what comes next. Why this can also be seen negatively was because many were expecting and hoping such as myself for even more apes on human fights and showoffs. Now, having seen the film I know we won't get that film as the next chapter seems as if it will take them towards another direction and possibly the apes forming a working society that is if they decide to go forward with another film. This also makes a whole lot of sense as it seems that the trajectory of the films is to reach the ‘Planet of the Apes’ state of the original films. Where Apes have a functional society and humanity are their slaves and incapable of speaking due to the virus.

Hopefully, they do go down that road and continue the series as there are still many stories to tell. The issue will be if the studios believe that making less money than superhero films is a wise investment or not. In theory it should be as this is one of the series that did make its money back, with a great story of underdog to tell and it’s an intellectual property that you can continually count on with good writers and directors backing it. Despite of this, these films still are about apes, humanity's darkest characteristics and the survival of races. Not the brightest of subjects for mass audiences to follow.

Additionally, it will be difficult to follow up with a fourth film when your main character is no longer present to lead the charge (again major spoilers). Caesar once more saves his apes from humanity and themselves, but pays the ultimate price with his life. His character arc in the latest film is possibly an even better one than the last. As he is literally the focal point this time while the previous film had another ape in Koba take some of the might with the human’s characters as well, but not only that. The fate of the apes relies solely on Caesar's actions for a better or worse. With Caesar finally coming to the realization that doing the right thing might end up leading the apes to their extinction. All this while he will have to fight his own internal demons and fear of the day that he will become his nemesis Koba. In essence, Caesar is Moses to the apes and in front of torment and doom he leads them to a promised land away from their foes.


At the same time, going toe to toe with a human villain in Woody Harrelson who has a lot of baggage of his own and from his point of view just looking out for the human race’s best intentions. Naturally, in war not everything is black and white, and we wish peace could be always the path everybody would go with, but as the film points out there was something more to why the humans weren't so thrilled about the ape’s prowess and intellect. As their continued existence could mean their end merely on a virus level. Putting humanity to the test and making the call of ending another race despite of the fact that they are equally as intelligent and conscious of their existence or letting them exist and letting nature take its course.

verdict:

What the 'Planet of the Apes' saga continues to show is that Sci-fi is a genre can do things and go places certain genres just cannot. In spite of this being a sequel of a remake, it’s still a class beyond films that stand on a more original foundation and a filmmaker’s creative intentions. As this series till now hasn't been afraid to ask the big questions that this unlikely sci-fi scenario would take you on and at the same time provided us with some the most exquisite technological effects that these productions should be proud of. Not to mention, following characters that you are from start to finish invested with and the suspense that ensues because of their actions and the paths they set for themselves.

Personal Rating:

review by Paul Katsaros

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