Quick Hit: Returning to the finale of the rebooted series, strong developments of secondary characters assist the story to stay in the upper echelon of science fiction.
After the high of seeing Dawn, it’s understandable to be a little let down by War. That’s not to say that it isn’t a tremendous movie – it’s just different in tone, despite continuing to feature all the things that have made this series so good. What’s different is that it allows some humor to creep in – more on that later – as well as development of other characters outside of Caesar. While this was attempted with James Franco in Rise and perfected with Koba in Dawn, it’s nice to have it spread around so that the other apes that Caesar spends his time with are characters instead of beautiful digital creations.
The war between the apes and humans has been raging now for years. Caesar desperately wants peace, but the General (played by Woody Harrelson) refuses to comply. This is because there is a strange disease ravaging the human population, which has driven many of the humans to a fever point. There are desperate, emotional losses on both sides, none of which I’ll spoil here.
As I stated in the open, the strongest portion of the film is the fact that a few of the other apes are actually characterized. Rocket goes further than just being the father of Blue Eye’s friend. He’s a dedicated friend to Caesar who will follow his instructions regardless. Along with that, we finally see Maurice as the moral compass of Caesar. He goes further than just suggestion of what Caesar should do – he tells him that he will go on and do things without Caesar’s approval. The mark of a trusted advisor is that which is unafraid to tell their ruler that they are wrong.
The CGI continues to be fantastic, particularly in close-up shots. Considering the majority of the movie consists of focusing on the facial expressions of a variety of characters that are not actually apes, it’s really, really impressive. The only CGI failure that I saw was towards the end of the movie when an avalanche was manufactured by digital imagery, and then it was just a ho-hum bit of work. Part of me wonders if someone besides Weta handled that portion, but I’m not blaming anyone, just curious.
The script here is very good, and allows several characters their chance for a monologue, in particular one stand-out by Harrelson. Serkis continues to deliver his lines in the rasping bark of Caesar, and it’s really outstanding. I’ll also give credit where credit is due by saying that Bad Ape, played by Steve Zahn, is really truly funny. The beginning reactions from the other apes to him, while not only expanding the story, give a welcome breath of humor to a franchise that was dangerously close to going to Cormac McCarthy levels of dark.
There are some detractors which keep the movie from going too high on my list – in particular all that plot conveniences towards the end of the movie. I understand exactly why it ended up the way it did – I’ve seen the original five films after all. But after the terrifically acted scene with Harrison and Serkis, we rush to the final scene of Maurice and Caesar. It robs some of the series of its emotional impact because everything else has been so well thought out.
In the end, it’s still an excellent movie and a great capper to the series. I’ll give it an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"