What a journey this has been. The final instalment of the current Planet of the Apes series ends on a very emotional note.
We catch up with Caesar (Andy Serkis), 15 years after 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' and humanity is struggling to find Caesar and his band of apes. The events of Dawn have left a lasting impression on Caesar and it reflects in the way he leads his tribe.
Serkis truly deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the leader of the apes. In War, there are several scenes where there is little or no dialogue. However, the way he displays emotion through facial expressions alone is one of the best performances I’ve seen on screen for a while.
The growth of Caesar and the rest of the apes is also amazing and screenwriters Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves keep the focus squarely on the apes.
Don’t expect this to be an action-packed, blockbuster production. Instead, prepare yourself for a dramatic ride, heavy on emotionally-charged scenes, for the duration of the movie.
Director Matt Reeves wastes no time and every scene has a purpose. The addition of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) provides much needed comic relief and levity in a film that for the most part is filled with tense situations and heartache.
Thematically, Reeves asks a lot of questions about what it truly means to be human and how Homo sapiens define their humanity, specifically focusing on mercy, compassion and actions undertaken for the sake of self-preservation.
Reeves also uses familiar imagery that echoes what audiences have seen in slave movies and this will strike a chord with people of colour. One could argue that the relationship between the apes and the humans is a thinly veiled analogy for the struggles that people of colour have gone through for liberation.
This is especially evident in a scene in which Caesar is flogged for standing up for one of his fellow apes, with the punishment administered by an ape who defected to the human army. This is literally a scene from Roots or any other slave movie.
While this might seem like lazy storytelling, it has immense emotional impact and Reeves seems well aware of the similarities. His use of imagery is also awe-inspiring and left me in tears.
The way The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is both written and portrayed is spectacular. In War, he at first comes over as a cut-and-dried villain.
However, in the third act, an intense interaction with Caesar gives him much-needed depth.
Harrelson is truly a most underrated actor and he is terrifying as the villain. By the end of the film and series, audiences will notice that Harrelson translated Reeves’s slavery and biblical references extremely well - and this adds more weight to the enjoyment of the whole series.
War of the Planet of the Apes brings an end to one of the best film franchises in recent years.
Caesar and the struggle of his fellow apes in their quest for equality simultaneously harkens back to colonialism, while looking thematically at what it really means to be a human.
War For the Planet of the Apes is one of the best films of the year and is Serkis’s best performance to date.