You’d be forgiven for forgetting this is a predominately CGI fueled film. Watching Caesar and his shrewdness (look it up; ‘group of apes’) trudge along the barren wasteland of a former populated Earth, and facing the impossible odds of fighting off onslaughts of attacks from humans hell-bent of wiping their kind out is thrilling, entertaining and daresay… believable?
It takes a grand total of about two minutes into War for the Planet of the Apes before you realise you’re rooting for the primates to win, but you knew that already if you’ve seen the other two movies in this trilogy, which perhaps surprising to some is the best overall movie franchise in recent memory. All instalments are tightly made, and self-contained, not focusing on setting up its next sequel or a grander ‘universe’ of spin-off stories.
This third movie could be the greatest thus far, Andy Serkis returns as Caesar, leader of the enhanced ape cohort, who has evolved to speak, hold weapons and ride horses. They are locked in a losing war against a flailing human race with nothing left to lose. When Caesar finds himself with no options he makes a decision to finally fight back, much to the dismay of his extended family – he goes at it alone.
With vibes very akin to Logan from earlier in 2017, Apes 3 is a post-apocalyptic setting where an old man, or in this case, a monkey, is headed for the border AKA new safe haven whilst harbouring a mysterious, quiet girl who could be the saviour or solution depending on your allegiances. There’s a villainous military type played by Woody Harrelson and you can relate to both sides of the fight, with the writing grounded in reality and the ham-up of the legitimacy of the war.
The protagonist is bitter, weathered and dangerous, and is a fantastic portrayal of a character. The series has followed Caesar since his birth in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and to see him become a revered legend amongst his kind is a fantastic arc – the core of what has made the trilogy so compelling. Obviously aided by next level visual effects, which I think undoubtedly help sell the whole concept and are the reason we are so invested in the plot.
Matt Reeves is the man behind the veil, having smashed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and now being handed the reigns for the next Batman movie – good luck there. But kudos for turning a franchise nobody really wanted or expected into something timeless and entertaining, with each new instalment bringing more to the ‘Apes’ lore and winning new fans along the way. And to Andy Serkis for bringing Caesar to life, a character who revolutionised the way we use technology in cinema, and made us feel for what is essentially a cartoon character.