WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
War for the Planet of the Apes concludes a trilogy that began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. It tells the story of Caesar, from a nascent, intelligent ape to the leader of a band of smart simians. Humankind here has been nearly wiped out, with the survivors fighting to retain their freedom and humanity. In a twist from the classic 1968 original, however, the humans here are the villains, and the apes, fleeing the remnants of an army led by an obsessed, Ahab-like colonel, are the heroes. We’re driven to root for the Apes, from the story’s beginning to its near-biblical conclusion.
I’m not totally on board with the deviations here from the 1968 original, nor with some of the symbolism used. And there isn’t a single sympathetic adult human; the middle film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was far more balanced in that regard. But there’s no denying that this is a powerful, beautifully made movie and one of the best of the year.
The UHD-HDR images, as viewed on a pixel-shifting 4K LCOS projector, are stunning, many of them shot in the jaw-dropping winter landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. And the motion-capture, animated apes are as convincingly real as they are in the first two films, with a special nod to a superb Andy Sirkis as Caesar.
The picture is crisp throughout. Dark scenes (which are dominant) are appropriately dim but always clear. And bright highlights, though infrequent, stand out where needed. The only bright colors come from explosions and rifle flares in the inevitable battle scenes; UHD’s wide color palette isn’t a star player here. But that’s the nature of the film, and this is a reference-quality UHD Blu-ray by any standard.
The UHD disc’s audio is Dolby Atmos, but I auditioned it in 5.1. It’s explosive and dynamic where required and subtle when not. Michael Giacchino’s scores have often struck me in the past as workmanlike and nothing memorable, but this one is a real exception—perhaps his best and superbly recorded as well. As he points out in the package’s extras, he was inspired by the work of Jerry Goldsmith in the 1968 original. It shows.
The extensive extras are some of the best I’ve seen recently. They include ten deleted scenes, extended making-of featurettes, a concept art gallery, and an audio commentary from director Matt Reeves (on both the UHD and HD discs—as is typical, the other extras are only on the HD version).