Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes
By Matthew Huntley
July 27, 2017
Amidst the continued violence and devastation between the two species, Caesar plans on leading the apes, including his wife and two children, to the desert for sanctuary. He thinks sparing the Colonel's men after a recent attack by Alpha-Omega would show he's willing to be merciful and make peace. But a subsequent tragedy pushes Caesar over the edge and his heart turns vengeful. He vows to kill the Colonel at “the border,” a compound that Alpha-Omega is fortifying in anticipation of an all-out assault by the primary U.S. military.
Along the way to the border, Caesar, Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and Rocket (Terry Notary) discover the effects the mutating Simian Flu Virus is having on humans, causing them to regress to primitive form and even lose their ability to speak. They gun down one Alpha-Omega soldier who has already started to turn but find he has a mute daughter (Amiah Miller), whom they decide to rescue. “We're not savages,” Caesar declares.
But savagery, along with anger and sadness, have corrupted the Colonel, whose army has captured and enslaved the rest of the ape population, not allowing them food or water and forcing them to build a wall. The Colonel's treatment of the apes is obviously meant to parallel the treatment of blacks during American slavery, or Jews during the Holocaust, and even though it garners a reaction from us, the Colonel's disregard for simian life is so severe it borders on unbelievable. I suppose his eventual back story helps, but I saw the Colonel character as a means to simply make Caesar appear more upstanding and sympathetic by comparison, and ultimately as a way to get us to root for the apes more, which made the movie feel manipulative and artificial. It also takes too long to do what we suspect it will do once the plot and characters are in place, but it doesn't bring enough fresh developments to the table in order to justify its near two and a half hour runtime.
And yet, despite all its narrative shortcomings, I still recommend “War” for its visual design. If the movie is to be seen, it should be seen in the theater because the imagery and effects are so astonishing. It's just a shame they don't service a better story, one that actually explores its ideas rather than merely making them excuses for violence and action. It's funny, but just as humans are starting to devolve on the planet of the apes, I feel like this series is also starting to revert to something less. Hopefully it will keep its promise and be the last “Apes” movie for a while. At least then it will have quit while it's still ahead.