‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review: Matt Reeves Closes A Strong Trilogy With The Best Of The Franchise

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source: 20th Century Fox

The Planet of the Apes franchise is the best modern blockbuster trilogy

We’re at a time in movie history where trilogies are not the goal that they once were. Sure, we have the new Star Wars, but now it’s mostly about creating a cinematic universe where each entry is different yet still fit within the larger picture. When you hear about movies like Scream 3 or The Last Jedi, you start to see why the switch from trilogies to universes happened. Almost all the third entries are the worst in a franchise. For War for the Planet of the Apes to go back to the roots of trilogies is risky. After two great movies, War is the best of the franchise proving that modern trilogies can be done right.

Offering a steady progression from the second movie, we are greeted to a world far darker and bleaker than the previous entries. Here, Ceasar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe of apes are caught in a war of apes between humans. The colonel (Woody Harrelson) will do whatever it takes for the humans to reclaim power and when he kills Ceasar’s family, the leader of the apes goes out on a mission to kill.

War for the Planet of the Apes keeps building on its previous entries and it rights the biggest problem Dawn had – its human characters. War shifts all its focus to Caesar and the apes. As the most interesting part of the franchise, the apes never gotten enough screen time but here, they focus on them more than previous entries. With that extra time, Matt Reeves is able to explore the dynamics between the apes and give their main apes some character development.

The stand out is still Andy Serkis as Ceasar who, along with the incredible CG, is able to create a real looking chimpanzee. It’s truly remarkable what the VFX team and the actors playing the apes can achieve. Even with all the technology, they are still able to succeed at making us emotionally attached to them, and that isn’t an easy task. Just look at this year’s Beauty And The Beast as they couldn’t achieve just what War has achieved here concerning its CG characters.

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Woody Harrelson is the only main human character in an otherwise ape-filled movie – source: 20th Century Fox

As the darker and bleaker of the franchise, War has powerful imageries and an effective poetical undertone that shine throughout the film. Strong holocaust imageries are a plenty helping to drive its depressing message of human nature home. The film has a lot of things to say concerning the human race, and it continues to build on themes from the first entry. Our selfishness, our hunger for power and our carelessness are all aspects of humanity cleverly portrayed. But War doesn’t stop there. It takes elements, such as the disease in the first film, and makes it into something valuable to the universe while adding a poetical edge.

With all these elements, it shouldn’t surprise movie-goers that War isn’t your typical summer blockbuster. It chooses to do things differently rather than by the books. Sticking to its unconventional essence, War only has one exposition scene. It finds other ways to tell its story without falling into typical blockbuster territory. It even subverts the big action scenes and the climax into a manner that feel unpredictable even when it falls into a straightforward narrative. It feels very much like its own movie while still not forgetting the larger picture.

It’s no longer hard to think of a strong modern trilogy now that War for the Planet of the Apes is here. It perfectly demonstrates how trilogies should work together and build upon each other. War corrects the few wrong doings of other entries making it the best of the franchise. It’s a darker, bolder and ultimately brighter sequel that will be a model for how to make third movies.

GRADE: A

War for the Planet of the Apes is released on July 14. 

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