Paranoia and fear: deadly tools when placed in the wrong situation with two different species staring down the barrel of their fates.
Matt Reeves' latest epic saga in the world of apes and humans-War for the Planet of the Apes-shows the once innocent Caesar (breathtaking work from Andy Serkis) in a vengeful light. The humans have taken out thousands of apes, and target Caesar's camp next. An unimaginable loss at the hands of a Colonel (Woody Harrelson) with his own brand of vengeance planned.
This sets Caesar on a mission to end the human fight against the apes, but at what cost? When your actions carry repercussions that affects not only your family, but your species, how does one react to tragedy?
The most flavorful thing about the Apes trilogy is that along with the gorgeously shot action sequences, Reaves (who helms the new Batman solo film) pauses to ask important questions about the sinister ability of humanity. When threatened by something they haven't seen before or do not understand, their reaction comes from a place of fear and paranoia.
And to think this all started with James Franco's scientist trying to find a cure for his father's Alzheimer's-an innocent endeavor that accidentally sprung a virus that enhanced the brain of an ape, while poisoning the human body and mind.
2011's Rise of the Planet of The Apes was well-done and shot, but 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (where Reeves came into the fold) took the story to a whole new level, pitting ape against ape (Toby Kebbell's Koba against Caesar) while advancing the human element with Jason Clarke's researcher. War takes the ultimate battle, spices it up with new characters and stakes, and brings it to a heady conclusion.
Harrelson is on a real career high at the moment, a trek that started with HBO's True Detective, seemingly growing into a versatile slate of roles. Part of the appeal of this film is the fact that there is no ultimate bad guy. The Colonel shows shades of evil and does bad things, but there's a reason behind it. How much better is Caesar if he takes human life to prove his own cause? These movies are so much better when everyone is basically fighting their own instincts instead of certain people. If he kills the Colonel, will Caesar free his people, or bring down a more vicious doom upon them?
Can we just give Serkis an award for being awesome in a tough role? From Gollum to Caesar, he injects so much character and feeling into these CGI powered roles, restricting the disconnect between film and moviegoer to where a human touch can be felt. The fact that he acquits himself nicely in physical roles only adds to his appeal.
Steve Zahn steals every scene he is in as the dim-witted yet resourceful Bad Ape who plays a healthy hand in Caesar's plan, a journey that includes rescuing a young girl, and forging new partnerships, and encountering new enemies along the way.
This is what Kong: Skull Island should have been with that great cast it carried, but ultimately failed due to its reliance on action (both films featured Kebbell). War for the Planet of the Apes is a high energy yet deeply powerful tale placed in the heat of summer; an adventure film with a brain.
While it's not as sharp as Dawn, War does add a soulful end to a potent trilogy that was already great to begin with.