Details: Released in 2017. Directed by Matt Reeves. Stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn. About two hours and twenty minutes long.
War of the Planet of the Apes is a misnamed movie in many ways. While decent science fiction, there is far less war and far more scenes reminiscent of Westerns and some clear imagery from internment/Holocaust films. The trailer led me to believe this was going to be a war movie. It is not. Combined with some tonal issues as well as plot issues in the third act and you get a film about half of which was enjoyable to me. This will be hard to discuss without some spoilers, so minor spoilers ahead.
War for the Planet of the Apes picks up where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes left off. Cesar and his clan of apes have fled into the jungle while a human army pursues them. The humans eventually catch up to them and Cesar is forced to deal with a human army as well as the internal conflict between Cesar’s hate of the humans and his desire for peace.
I was a big fan of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the ending to that as well as the marketing of this movie led me to believe we were going to see a war movie where apes have to figure out how to fight against a modern human military. There is some of that in the beginning of the film and less so near the end, but that’s about it. Don’t expect too much action here.
What I also loved about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the intense, dramatic tone of the film. You really felt the heaviness of the conflicts facing these apes and the philosophical questions they had to deal with. The first half of War for the Planet of the Apes suceeds in continuing this heavy, serious tone. However, about two thirds in, the film turns into a prison break comedy. It is very jarring ruined the rest of the movie for me. It was hard for me to get back in the mindset established in the beginning of the film and take this movie seriously. Furthermore, the ending of the conflict between the humans and the apes is such an ass-pull that I mostly checked out for the rest of the film. It was deeply dissapointing considering how much I enjoyed the prior film.
Otherwise, the first two thirds of the movie are great. The tone is great. The acting and special effects of the apes is damn impressive. It’s when they get to the end of the second act as well as the end of the third act where things fall apart for me.
Overall, while I mostly enjoyed this film, it was somewhat of a let down. I expected more and the marketing advertised a different movie to what I was expecting. This movie should not have been named The War for the Planet of the Apes. It should’ve been The Struggle or The Suffering, or even The Exodus for the Planet of the Apes because that’s what this film is about. It’s about the Apes struggling and suffering and trying to move on. Again, this is a decent movie and true science fiction in that it allows us to use a fictional setting to examine aspects of the real world and our society. I do not love the film, but I can recommend it to anyone with a love for science fiction and drama.