'War for the Planet of the Apes' review: Technically stunning, but needlessly drawn-out
By Daniel Thimmayya | Express News Service | Published: 15th July 2017 10:20 AM |
Film: War for the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller
I will give the latest in the Apes trilogy this much: Everything about it is intense. Like really, really, really intense. So intense that, after a point, and this is merely a suspicion, Andy Serkis (who plays Alpha smart-chimp Caesar) might have started scratching non-existent facial hair with a perennial frowny-face when at dinner with the kids.
And you could say that’s what’s great about this movie. Unfortunately, it’s also what makes it such a drag. There are so many intensely drawn-out moments, playing on the many emotions that the apes go through, that even the cheesiest of comic elements--in this case, an unusually conversant zoo-escaped monkey called Bad Ape--end up as unusual relief. Almost all through its 140 minute runtime. Bittersweet, eh?
If you’ve worked your way through Dawn... and Rise..., the prequels to this now-concluded trilogy (one can hope), then War... may not really be the ending you may have hoped for. For starters, it’s even further removed from human reality that the previous movie was. The world the apes inhabit is now your garden variety post-apocalyptic scene, with the virus having wiped out what appears to be the majority of the human race. The apes are hiding out in the woods, going forth and multiplying and doing the whole family thing, while an army called the Alpha-Omega (who for some unnaturally anti-national reason have the scientific symbols of the Alpha and Omega inscribed on their Star Spangled Banner, and have graffiti with bad ape jokes) is hunting them down.
Faced with swift and violent extinction, and after an attack that wipes out most of his family, the otherwise-sensible Caesar is pushed into a revenge mission. His target is the army’s chieftain, called Colonel (Woody Harrelson). To make sure he makes it back alive, the old band from the first movie is back for a reunion tour, horses, rifles et al.
Harrelson, who has been astonishingly entertaining in the Hunger Games movies, is given way too serious a task: a character who’s too brooding and depressive to make any real impression. It’s a pity he doesn’t get to crack even the odd punchy one-liner. That may have made his character a whole lot more entertaining.
As for Andy Serkis, he never ceases to amaze me every time he plays Caesar. It’s astonishing that he makes motion capture and cinematography look that great, that convincing, and so uncannily chimp-like, without ever making you wonder where the VFX work began and ended. It’s simply jaw-droppingly good acting. The scenes that involve his rediscovery of the goodness and innocence of the human race--through a mute child that he orphaned and then was forced to take along on his revenge raid--are poignant, but again, decidedly drawn out.
If all those intricately crafted moments--and I call them intricate because large swathes of the film involve apes communicating in sign language--had been combined with the action and aesthetic that made the previous two movies work, then War... would have been an infinitely more enjoyable watch. Turning down the insanely heavy dose of predictability through the movie would also have been great, as there are so many scenes where you easily know what’s coming next.
Inevitably, War... twists itself into a survival-of-the-fittest scenario. And these situations are fraught with important questions that the viewer must look within and ponder over to answer honestly. Will it be the apes? Or will the humans survive? Will both of them make it? Will the apes turn into humans? Will the humans turn into apes? Will Andy Serkis get to play a human again? Will you be able to stay awake?
Go watch this film and you may get your answers to all of these queries, except perhaps the last. Time will answer that one.