The names of the Apes… reboot movies have always been something of a sore point, with Dawn being the only one that really felt like it owned it’s title. Whilst in Dawn’we saw the beginnings of what led to a race of super intelligent apes, Rise never really gave us a progressive step closer to the future outlined in the first movie, from way back in 1968.
A similar situation befalls War; there’s a pretty sizeable battle in the opening minutes of the movie, but this lasts for a handful of minutes and then it’s back to the more sedate, cerebral story telling we’re used to from the first and second films. To be clear though, this is NOT a bad thing. If War had given us two and a half hours of balls out, ape on man battle footage then it would have been a wasted opportunity, and probably not nearly as memorable.
The War is there though, although it is not so much a between ape and man, as a war between the light and shade of Caesar’s soul. Events at the beginning of the movie take Caesar to a very dark place, and the main narrative of the film comes from Caesar’s journey to the depths of that darkness. Unsurprisingly, the shadow of former nemesis Koba looms large for him during this journey, making him question his decisions, but not being strong enough to deter him from the path he has laid out for himself.
One interesting aspect of this internal struggle, which appears to have been overlooked in many reviews I have read, is Caesar’s motivations to kill. His struggle does not seem to be with killing man, and there are moments in the film that clearly demonstrate he has no issue with that. The real struggle for Caesar are his reasons for making the kill; the driving force for him throughout the movie is a desire to kill a man for purely selfish reasons, and it’s this act he struggles with, while killing to save the lives of his family is done without a second thought.
"Without wanting to sound narcissistic for our species,
it demonstrates his humanity."
This is a small point and very easy to overlook, or more probably to misunderstand and to call out as a failing of the story. "Why can’t he kill X when he’s just killed Y with no issues?" is likely to be a common question during people’s reflections on the film. This is far from a failing though, and demonstrates just how much Caesar’s moral core has evolved from that of an animal. Without wanting to sound narcissistic for our species, it demonstrates his humanity.
While this is the main story of the film, it’s not really crucial to the advancement of the universe they’ve created on its journey to the true Planet of The Apes. The final event that takes us closer to that world could have happened without any involvement from Caesar and his tribe. That said it does make still make sense, with none of the plot points feeling like they were there solely to move the story along. This is a well-crafted tale, and possibly the best of the three.
While I was watching the film, I was thinking of movies and movie styles that this reminded me of, and to be honest this felt more like a good Western than anything else, with Caesar and his posse out for revenge against that man that done him wrong. I’ve never been a huge fan of Westerns, so it stands as a testimony to the quality of War that I really enjoyed it. Like those that went before it, this Apes film is an understated, powerful and moving piece of science-fiction cinema. I am sure that it will be remembered, in fifty years from now, as lovingly as the original, if not more so for the deeper emotional depths it takes us to. It’s sad to see the end of Caesar’s journey, as Reeves has confirmed that this will be the last of a trilogy, but it has been a wonderful ride.
VERDICT: See it!
What do you think of War for the Planet of the Apes? Let us know in the comments below.