'War for the Planet of the Apes' movie review: A fitting send-off to Caesar

In one of his darkest moments, Caesar (motion-captured by Andy Serkis), with the help of his loyal comrades and newfound friend learns to let go for the greater good of everyone. “War for the Planet of the Apes” is an effective trilogy capper for one of the most consistent (and even underrated) film series out there, as it is a highly impressive standalone movie that everyone can enjoy.

"War for the Planet of the Apes"
Andy Serkis motion-captured as Caesar in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’/20th Century Fox
The film, which picks up two years after the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar and his pack of apes are still in the war against the humans. Unfortunately, the longevity of the conflict eventually caught up on the primates prompting Caesar to come to terms with his personal demons and confront the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), as well as, the traitorous Red Gorilla (motion-captured by Ty Olsson). Despite “War for Planet of the Apes” technically part of threequel, people do not necessarily have to see the first two films from the franchise. The film catches you up with the most basics of stories from the prequels although it doesn’t hurt to see its predecessors.

Woody Harrelson as main villain Colonel in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’
Woody Harrelson as main villain Colonel in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’/20th Century Fox
Obviously, Serkis was a star as Caesar. He has mastered the art of motion-capture to the point that the notion of an Academy Award nod is being floated around. Despite this, it might be too early to presume given that “War for the Planet of the Apes” comes out a little too tad early for the usual Oscars film roundup. That said, Woody Harrelson as the menacing Colonel was as effective as any well-crafted villain is. Especially so with his attempt to justifying his reasoning and even attempt at making Caesar understand where he is coming from. Ultimately, the discord between Caesar and the Colonel all boils down to having different mindsets in dealing with the situation, despite basically pursuing the same goal - and that is to protect their respective species.

Caesar’s family in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’
Caesar’s family in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’/20th Century Fox

But one thing that was not really expected coming into a film that deals with the conflict between apes and humans is the level of emotions that director Matt Reeves was able to evoke. From the first intense encounter between the military men sneaking up on a pack of apes all the way to the last shot of ‘the film with the Apes settling in their new home only to realize Caesar’s quiet death, “War for the Planet of the Apes” was able to ground what is rather a very sci-fi-thriller-ish film. The loyalty among Caesar’s pack is beautiful to watch and even when is faced the death, the leader continues to put his specie and family first before anything else.

Further, despite its grim feel, for the most part, the addition of the Bad Ape (mo-cap by Steve Zahn) provides the film levity, while Nova’s (Amiah Miller) character is great in for more heart-warming interactions especially with Caesar, Maurice (mo-cap by Karin Konoval) and even Luka.

Andy Serkis motion-captured as Caesar
Andy Serkis motion-captured as Caesar in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’/20th Century Fox

Much has been said about Serkis’ being the prince of mo-cap since his acclaimed performance in “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as Sméagol/Gollum and even in the first “Planet of the Apes” film - “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” However, with the advancement of technology over the course of the years, this iteration of not just Caesar, but the rest of the mo-cap characters were some of the most realistic movie translation of the anthropoids. This, in contrast with its sweeping landscape (which gives the film a grandiose film although its story is really very contained) and coupled with Michael Giacchino's score, make for a stunning set of cinematic experience.

A minor gripe for an otherwise spectacular piece of film was how Gabriel Chavarria, who played the Preacher, was utilized in the film. The soldier had doubts about the Colonel’s actions and imperatives furthered with Caesar sparing his life at the very beginning of the film. And yet, even with multiple opportunities presented on how could have redeemed himself, the story forges its depiction of him as one of the bad guys with him eventually epitomizing the role when he shot Caesar with his bow gun, causing his slow death.

WATCH: "War for the Planet of the Apes" official movie trailer

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a well-made film with a different spin on the real-life conflicts brought about by ideological difference which makes you forget about any preconceived notions of watching a film genre that is well beyond your alley. The movie, for its spectacular visuals and grounded narrative, is worth a trip to your nearest cinema house.

-- ALD, The Summit Express

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