Wednesday, January 23, 2019
War for the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Matt Reeves and screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bomback from characters by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from a premise by Pierre Boulle, War for the Planet of the Apes is about a group of apes who are in conflict with humans over the control of planet Earth as the leader of the apes copes with loss and uncertainty. The third film in the reboot series that follows the character of Caesar who is trying find peace for both apes and humans while also dealing with a group of apes who want him dead as the character is once again played by Andy Serkis. Also starring Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn. War for the Planet of the Apes is a gripping yet somber film from Matt Reeves.
Set two years after events that lead to the start of a bloody war between apes and humans, the film revolves around a group of apes trying to find a new hiding place from a rogue army of humans lead by an extremist military figure who would attack its leader Caesar that lead to the death of his family prompting Caesar to go on a journey to find the colonel (Woody Harrelson) and kill him. The film is a revenge story of sorts yet it is really the study of an ape who had helped try to find a home and idea for other apes to follow as he struggles with an-ongoing conflict with humans while dealing with apes who have sided with the humans in this war that is raging on. The film’s screenplay by Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback follows the journey that Caesar takes part in where he wants to go on this journey for revenge by himself but longtime allies in Rocket (Terry Notary), the gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), and the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) join him to find this vicious colonel.
Along the way, Caesar and his team would travel to find a fortress as they would encounter a lot of things including an orphaned girl they would later call Nova (Amiah Miller) and a talking chimpanzee who calls himself Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). The encounter with the two as well as a meeting with this colonel following his own capture would cause some serious revelations for Caesar as memories of his former friend-turned-foe in Koba (Toby Kebbell) would come into play. Upon meeting this colonel, Caesar learns that humans are suffering from the effects of the virus that killed them many years ago where the colonel sees it as de-evolution forcing him to go rogue from other forces as it’s not just apes he wants to kills but also humans carrying the virus.
Reeves’ direction definitely has this feel of a war film in terms of the grand presentation he creates in his approach to the battles as well as how the film opens with a patrol of human soldiers trekking through the woods to try and find this secret base. Shot largely on location in the Lower Mainland section of Vancouver with additional locations at the Kananaskis mountain range, Reeves does use wide shots of the locations as it play into the area where war is raging yet there is this element of guerilla warfare with the usage of close-ups and medium shots that add to the suspense. Even in the non-action scenes as it play into the apes interacting with each other through sign language as they cope with not just loss but also survival once they meet Nova through accidental means when Caesar commits an act that add to his own descent into hate where he would later be haunted by his actions. Reeves would use the moment of silence and sign language as a way for the apes to get a look into their surroundings as well as lament over their situation and Caesar’s thirst for revenge.
Once Caesar reaches the base that the colonel is stationed in as he deals with not just his own actions but also would become this martyr for the apes as he would endure the punishments of everyone. The film does have Biblical imagery as well as compositions that Reeves create that play into this idea of the Messiah yet Caesar isn’t interested in being a messianic figure. Even as he has to deal with this colonel where Reeves has the camera follow this man where he gives this monologue that says a lot about what he’s about and why he’s managed to alienate so many people yet he sees what he’s doing as a mission for the good of mankind. The film’s climax as it play into Caesar making a decision where he thinks about not just the apes but also this young girl he’s grown to care for as it would be in the center of a battle between humans with nature also playing its part. Overall, Reeves crafts a gripping yet wondrous film about an ape’s thirst for revenge for his family’s death forces him to come to terms with everything he’s done and face his own faults.
Cinematographer Michael Seresin does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it has this gorgeous exterior look of the daytime exteriors with its usage of snow and grey skies as well as the usage of lights for some of the interior scenes at night as well as the exterior scenes in the prison. Editors William Hoy and Stan Salfas do excellent work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts as well as not deviating to rapid fast-paced cuts in order to let shots linger for a few more seconds to establish the action. Production designer James Chinlund, with set decorator Amanda Moss Serino and supervising art director Maya Shimoguchi, does amazing work with the look of some of the shantytowns for some of the humans as well as the station that the colonel is living in. Costume designer Melissa Bruning does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual for the winter-time clothing that Nova wears as well as a vest that Bad Ape wears and the military clothing of the colonel and his men
Special effects supervisors Dan Cervin and Joel Whist, along with visual effects supervisors Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, and Joe Letteri, do fantastic work with the visual effects including the motion-capture look of the apes as it is a highlight of the film. Sound designers Will Files and Douglas Murray do superb work with the sound in the way the apes would sound as well as the sounds of nature and other elements that help play into the action, suspense, and drama. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is incredible for its rich orchestral score with its bombastic themes for the suspense and action as well as some low-key yet somber pieces for the dramatic moments while the only non-score piece played is a cover of the song Hey Joe performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The casting by Debra Zane is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Judy Greer, Max Lloyd-Jones, Devyn Dalton, and Sara Canning in their respective roles as members of Caesar’s family in his wife Cornelia, sons Blue-Eyes and Cornelius, and Blue-Eyes’ wife Lake along with Gabriel Chavarria as a soldier named Preacher who was spared by Caesar early in the film only to side further with the colonel. Other notable small roles and appearances include Toby Kebbell as the ghost of Caesar’s old ally in Koba, Ty Olsson as the gorilla Red who works for the colonel, Michael Adamthwaite as the gorilla Luca who is an ally of Caesar, and Aleks Paunovic as the albino gorilla Winter who reluctantly betrays Caesar out of fear for the colonel. The fantastic performances of Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, and Amiah Miller in their respective roles as the chimpanzee Rocket, the orangutan Maurice, and the mute human girl Nova display that air of humanity and compassion that Caesar is struggling to hold on to with Maurice being the film’s conscience.
Steve Zahn is excellent as Bad Ape as a chimpanzee who can speak as he is someone that’s been in hiding for years as he helps Caesar and his entourage with the location of the colonel’s base as he also expresses his own fears due to the loss he’s faced. Woody Harrelson is brilliant as the colonel as the leader of a rogue human army that is trying to wipe out apes but also humans who are starting not to speak as a way to ensure humanity’s dominance over apes as it’s a chilling yet riveting performance from Harrelson. Finally, there’s Andy Serkis in a phenomenal performance as Caesar as a chimpanzee who had been trying to find the apes a peaceful sanctuary as he copes with loss as well as uncertainty about his journey for revenge as Serkis displays so much emotion and gravitas by doing so little in his performance.
War of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film from Matt Reeves that features great performances from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson. Along with its ensemble cast, eerie visuals, top-notch visual effects, Michael Giacchino’s score, and its story of revenge and sacrifice. It’s a blockbuster film that offers a lot more than what big-budget action-adventure films offer as it provides a lot of commentary about loss, revenge, and survival as well as showing that love and compassion is the key to victory. In the end, War of the Planet of the Apes is a tremendous film from Matt Reeves.
Related: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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