Grade: A+

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Author: Billy Madden

Oftentimes the third and final movie in a trilogy is the weakest. Fortunately for the Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy, that is untrue. In fact, in my mind, they make up a perfect trilogy because all three films have superb quality. Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011 was good, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 was better, and now with War for the Planet of the Apes, we get the best movie in the trilogy.

Director Matt Reeves gives us an amazing look in the mirror with War for the Planet of the Apes. When you bundle in Andy Serkis’ arguably Oscar-worthy performance of Caesar, you know you are watching something special on screen.

The film focuses on Caesar and his ultimate revenge for the death of his wife and son. The Colonel, expertly played by Woody Harrelson, is doing everything in his power with his army to wipe these anthropoids from existence. Battling against him and some ape defectors who were “promised” life after the war, Caesar and the rest of the gang must survive, working on escaping an ape concentration camp. Their survival depends on it.

War is incredibly well done, from the beautiful scenery set up in British Columbia to the ever-advancing technology that brings the simians to life. The motion capture technology is absolutely mind-blowing. You believe the apes are real and forget you’re watching top-class CGI throughout. If this movie does not at least get nominated for an Oscar in the special effect category, the Academy is off its rocker.

I was lucky enough to attend a Q and A with the director after the movie and learned that the motion capture was done with exact precision and realism. Matt Reeves said that when you saw the apes in snow and rain, they (the actors) were actually in snow and rain, sometimes at three in the morning.

The film’s opening scene shoves you into the thick of the war as The Colonel’s soldiers try to infiltrate the primate’s makeshift home base. Some scenes may be hard to digest because of how the apes are treated; abuse, death, and maltreatment from even their kind, who have defected. If you’re an animal lover like I am, you might have reservations about a few scenes in the movie. These scenes have a purpose in the film, but it’s still difficult to swallow.

Still, the script for this film was tight and engaging. The first 30 minutes of the movie barely have any dialogue other than the apes’ sign language accompanied by subtitles. Yet, it still holds your attention because the actors do an incredible job of portraying their emotions and desires. The relationship among the ape community builds, establishing rare authenticity with the characters. Though the previous movies did an excellent job of character development, in War, you can easily discern how an ape feels just by his or her actions.

No monkeying around, War for the Planet of the Apes is a serious movie in a mix of fun summer blockbusters. The film’s message can easily be applied to our time on Earth. This movie should be in many discussions come Oscar time. Do not miss this one.

Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images)
Director: Matt Reeves
Screenwriters: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action

In “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the planet’s future.

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