WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (M, 140 MINS), DIRECTED BY MATT REEVES
Third time really is the charm for Weta Digital.
Who knew that 15 years after the franchise seemingly went for a fatal [Tim] ‘‘Burton’’, we’d be hailing these Planet prequels/ reboots as one of the great cinematic sci-fi trilogies. We’ve truly seen the rise of a compelling, complicated yet comprehensible story that has also heralded a new dawn in special-effects wizardry and moviemaking, crowned by the breathtaking, beguiling and bravura War.
For the past two years, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his genetically enhanced shrewdness of apes have been on the run, trying to evade capture by those humans not wiped out by Simian Flu. Still paying for the rash actions of his once loyal lieutenant Koba, Caesar’s hopes of peace with his less hairy ‘‘distant relatives’’ now seem forlorn.
A leader who never wanted war, he finds himself drawn into it when bullets meant for him take away both his beloved eldest son and partner. As revenge blindsides him, he abandons his charges, hellbent on making the homo-sapien who hurt him pay.
Adding co-writing duties to his Dawn directing gig, Matt Reeves has conjured up a potent combination of heartwrenching and harrowing Shakespearian drama and thrilling action. Fans of the original series quintet have plenty of nods large and small to excite them, while Reeves and Mark Bomback also seemingly draw from a wide range of literary and cinematic inspirations.
Combining the premises and conceits of two earlier 2017 blockbusters – Kong: Skull Island and Logan – War will also remind viewers of classic tales like The Searchers, Apocalypse Now, The Empire Strikes Back and Spartacus. It’s also a tale that feels both timeless and timely, especially given the ‘‘nightmare’’ some Americans feel they’ve been experiencing since ‘‘that Tuesday’’ in November.
Read all the allegories and allusions you want into it though, at its heart War is innovative, intelligent and indelible cinema.
Michael Giacchino’s ( Lost) score is haunting, the set-pieces thrilling, the spectacle jawdropping and the performances powerfully persuasive. On the human side, you have Woody Harrelson evoking his Natural Born Killers persona, while up against him there’s a cadre of amazing motion-capture enhanced turns, led by the increasingly amazing Andy Serkis. The Academy, The Hollywood Foreign Press et al need to find a way to honour this groundbreaking piece of acting. And surely Wellington’s Weta will be collecting plenty of silver and goldware come early 2018. For they have delivered the 2017 blockbuster we’ve all been waiting for.
Finally a film worth going ape about. – James Croot
In War For the Planet of the Apes, Woody Harrelson evokes memories of his performance in Natural Born Killers.