A thrilling epic in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Ap­par­ently all the new Planet of the Apes films needed to do to re­ally hit a home run was take the hu­mans out of the equa­tion. It’s what this whole tril­ogy has been lead­ing to, re­ally, as we dipped our toes into the rise, dawn and now war of this bur­geon­ing civ­i­liza­tion of apes and the hu­mans who are des­per­ately and of­ten dis­hon­or­ably fight­ing for their sur­vival. “War for the Planet of the Apes “is a riv­et­ing and sur­pris­ingly poignant epic that’s a shade above the rest of the fran­chise dreck pop­u­lat­ing ev­ery mul­ti­plex in the coun­try. It’s as though di­rec­tor Matt Reeves, screen­writer Mark Bom­back and the pro­duc­tion ac­tu­ally put care and thought into what they were do­ing with their char­ac­ters.

Reeves wastes no time get­ting the ac­tion started with a grip­ping open­ing bat­tle. We en­ter the world through the eyes of some ter­ri­fied in­trud­ers. A group of hu­man sol­diers walk through the woods in search of Cae­sar (Andy Serkis). They don’t know whether he’s still alive, but their leader is hell­bent on ex­ter­mi­nat­ing the apes. Cae­sar and his fol­low­ers have been op­er­at­ing from a se­cret hide­out in the woods - a gor­geous lit­tle Eden tucked away be­hind a thun­der­ing wa­ter­fall. When the sol­diers find them, the apes fight back swiftly and ef­fec­tive- ly and nearly take out all of the com­bat­ants. Cae­sar spares the lives of the few sur­vivors to send a mes­sage back to their leader that the apes are not sav­ages and just want to live in peace sep­a­rately from the hu­mans.

Of course the mes­sage in­spires ex­actly the op­po­site re­ac­tion and the beau­ti­ful and har­row­ing and nearly silent night­time raid that comes soon leaves the apes no choice but to aban­don their home and hit the road in search of safety. Cae­sar, how­ever, de­cides he must go off alone and avenge his com­mu­nity by de­stroy­ing the Colonel (Woody Har­rel­son), a de­ranged Kurtz fig­ure who is truly one of the best true vil­lains we’ve had in quite some time. A few of Cae­sar’s com­rades fol­low him on his jour­ney to find the Colonel. Along the way they pick up a young, mute girl (Amiah Miller) and a tiny, manic and adorable zoo ape voiced by Steve Zahn who has the same sort of comic en­ergy as Yoda on Dagobah (with­out all the force stuff and Jedi train­ing). When they ar­rive at the Colonel’s base, they find a much bleaker and more com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion than they could have ever ex­pected.

To say too much more about the plot would prob­a­bly be a mis­take and part of the great­ness of Bom­back’s script is how even in fol­low­ing a pretty stan­dard ex­o­dus story, it still man­ages to sur­prise and cap­ti­vate through­out, and with min­i­mal di­a­logue too. At times, it even feels like “War for the Planet of the Apes” is es­sen­tially a silent movie with the mute girl and the ma­jor­ity of the apes com­mu­ni­cat­ing in sign lan­guage. Cae­sar also con­tin­ues to be a fas­ci­nat­ing and truly com­plex char­ac­ter that’s as well-con­ceived and ex­e­cuted as a live-ac­tion per­for­mance. Har­rel­son, too, is a men­ac­ing de­light in his role that has more lay­ers than might meet the eye.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” should be a sat­is­fac­tory con­clu­sion for the se­ries, but that’s naively as­sum­ing fran­chises are even al­lowed to have in­ten­tional end­ings. Re­gard­less of what hap­pens or doesn’t hap­pen next for the Planet of the Apes, this in­stall­ment is very sim­ply a great time at the movies. “War for the Planet of the Apes,” a 20th Cen­tury Fox re­lease, is rated PG-13 for “se­quences of sci-fi vi­o­lence and ac­tion, the­matic el­e­ments, and some dis­turb­ing im­ages.” Run­ning time: 142 min­utes. Three and a half stars out of four. MPAA Def­i­ni­tion of PG-13: Par­ents strongly cau­tioned. Some ma­te­rial may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren un­der 13. — AP

This im­age re­leased by Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox shows Karin Kono­val, left, and Amiah Miller in “War for the Planet of the Apes.” — AP pho­tos

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