Is War for the Planet of the Apes better than its fussy title?

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Photo by 20th Century Fox.

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By Adam Brannon
Film Reviewer from Movie Metropolis for What’s on Hub

Six years ago, I didn’t think I’d be telling you that a remake of the classic Planet of the Apes and its sequel would go on to be one of the finest double acts since The Two Ronnies, but that’s exactly what has happened.

Now, the final part of this incredible trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes is out and ready to conclude an incredible half decade of cinema. But is it as good as its predecessors?

Photo by 20th Century Fox.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of loyal apes are forced into a deadly war with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After Caesar’s band of apes suffers unimaginable losses, he wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own quest of revenge. As the journey finally brings the two rivals face-to-face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species.

I have to say, I was a little concerned the finished product would be as tongue twisting as its frankly ridiculous title (a problem that has blighted the entire series), but it ends up being a stunning and heart-warming finale to a franchise filled to the brim with memorable moments.

The motion capture used on Andy Serkis to create Caesar has to be seen to be believed. If you thought predecessor Dawn was good, you haven’t seen anything yet. His hair moves with subtle believability and his movements are so fluid, it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film and not a documentary.

But this incredible technology isn’t used solely on our main protagonist. Fan favourite orangutan Maurice returns and newcomer “Bad Ape” captured by Steve Zahn provides the flick with a much-needed eccentric, shining a little light in one of the bleakest feature films of the last half decade.

The human character, naturally don’t fare so well. Woody Harrelson is his usual charismatic self but feels a little caricature like. His colonel just doesn’t feel particularly believable. Likewise, Amiah Miller’s turn as Nova, whom Maurice adopts as his daughter, seems to be merely used as a plot device, though she does partake in some of the sweeter moments.

As with its predecessors, War is a slow burner with the action interweaved into the plot rather than the other way around. In principle it works well, though the pacing towards the middle of this 140-minute behemoth is a little off.

Nevertheless, the action is filmed beautifully. In fact, the whole film is stunning. Beautiful wooded landscapes and open deserts are juxtaposed with the dark concentration camps used in the latter half. One sequence in particular, behind a gorgeously realised waterfall, is one of the best action scenes of the entire year.

Masquerading as a blockbuster, this is a film with a much deeper message about messing with nature. Brutal and emotionally testing, War for the Planet of the Apes is brave in its choices and all the better for it.

Three films in, it would be easy for director Matt Reeves to rest on his laurels and rely on the positive reaction to its predecessors, but thankfully he has climaxed on a high. It’s not perfect, and not an easy watch by any means, but for a threequel, you can’t really get much better.

Our score: ★★★★☆

Watch if you liked: Planet of the Apes, War Horse.

War for the Planet of the Apes is showing now at Odeon Cinema, Hull

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