Film · Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Review – I mean, kinda.

There ain’t no reason why these fucking chimp movies gotta be so goddamn good. Like this one starts with an on screen text introduction summarising the last two films in the series because even the creators know that they don’t got an A-list property on their hands, they can’t trust their audience to have even seen them all. They wouldn’t be all that expensive but the sheer commitment to the ape bit means that almost all the main characters have to be created with the assistance of some of the most technically accomplished mocap-blend character animation work we got going on nowadays. I don’t know no one who was getting pumped for the next Planet of the Apes feature.

But, behind the scenes while I pay no attention, these folks be putting in the work. I shouldn’t always be surprised, I guess it’s the way I’m made, I guess I shouldn’t fall into the press cycle. This a Fox joint, when did I last pay them any attention? Oh wait, looks like they’ve been releasing legit films all year. Matt Reeves too, one of those legit directors who never get the fame they deserve because they put out consistently great work and don’t announce themselves. I hope his Batman project finds its way into a good place, he’s taking over the script now, co-wrote this feature, seems to know his way around the deal.

What’s the good film websites? I evidently don’t follow enough.

Anyway, the other thing these movies are is hardcore. Real fucking hardcore. I mean, I know gritty reboots have been the thing forever now, but jeez, War for the Planet of the Apes is taking things up to a whole new level. Make no mistake, this gets rated a 12A because the characters ain’t human, if this joint were putting Andy Serkis face up front and centre the ratings board would make a whole nother decision. The Simian flu continues to spread around the world, human society has continued to fall and are still waging their ill advised war on the apes, the California tribe led by Caesar have given up seeking peace, if they just peace out instead they get a chance to leave.

The apes always look a little rum on horses

As they prepare to leave the forest, head out east, their camp is attacked by a band of renegade soldiers led by deranged anti-ape extremist The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) they succeed in killing Caesar’s wife and son, they miss the dude himself. Caesar sets the tribe off and, accompanied by a few close friends, he sets off on the path for revenge. The film continues in this way for a way, they track, hunt down clues, pick up some hangers on: Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) is playing the old PTSD for comic relief dude which honestly feels like a character we’ve moved past as a society. Like, especially given where the film going, it seems a little tasteless, little outta place.

Film got an introducing credit for the other one, Amiah Miller plays Nova, this human child they find in the tracks of the army. She a real sweet kid and while I don’t got too much on her performance, she clearly present in her scenes, looks super cute in a big coat, photographs well, the main attraction is that she gives Maurice more to do. Imma say right now I love that there’s an ape that’s just called Maurice and I love even more the way that Serkis just chews up that word when it comes in dialogue, but my dude clearly the heart of the troupe and he adopts the girl. Karin Konoval’s performance is just the best, like she nails so much of this dude and even when she playing off of Serkis’ intensity her presence in the space just stops you right in your tracks.

It's possibly the worst ever look

Not to say Serkis bad though, he a rock, he anchors the movie. He has such strength and confidence in his performance and is just so Serkis. Like I’ve been up and down in the past regarding mo-cap acting, but I know my dude’s face and I can see it buried in what we got here. I’m sold on it, really the weakest performances in the joint are the adult humans. Harrelson is fine, but we’ve sorta seen him in this place before, he got little to add to the role beside his fantastic ability at posturing. Gabriel Chavarria turns up as this underwritten private who might be conflicted about things but never really gets too much to do to express that.

Cos about halfway through the film becomes a holocaust movie. Our heroes are captured and locked in a camp where they are forced to work, are underfed, are tortured and executed for the pleasure of the guards. They even have their own sonderkommando gorillas who exact punishments and keep the population in line. It’s like this for half the film. It’s a treatise on modern American fascism. About the othering of minority communities, about white pride and straight pride and the celebration of petty bigotry.

Incongruous blooms

They clearly operating on this ableist and exclusionary blood quantum type ideal. Anyone gets sick with the simian flu is summarily executed because any suspicion of the impurity of their supremacy must be dealt with violently. They’re concerned about the arrival of the actual ‘responsible’ troops, the ones which ain’t gone rogue and mad. The apes understand that whatever change the facade of civility would bring it would still end up with them under the boot heel. They gotta do something.

Cause they ain’t got no problem in accepting a human into their number, they accept and empower their struggling companion. They understand that difference is something to be embraced even though it can be hard to understand, because that’s going to produce a far more positive relationship than revulsion. I love these chimp dudes, they seem legit.

The film don’t always quite manage to be on that level though. This is like the second film in a month where we get extended ASL sequences and this one’s even worse about neglecting the hands. Again, I get it, filmmaking is focused on faces and we get subtitles anyway, but holy hell extend a hand to the audience who’s gonna understand. Also check people who sign, see how good they can be at expressing through those hands, let’s get more of that in our movies. Accept and embrace. Be like Maurice.

War for the Planet of the Apes is currently screening in UK cinemas.

Unnamed ape (2017)
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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