Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Review: War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes (3D / vague thematic spoilers)
Cert: 12A / 140 mins / Dir. Matt Reeves / Trailer

Set around fifteen years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes*1 (and 2 after its sequel), the colony of hyper-intelligent chimps, gorillas and orangutans led by Caesar grows apace. The remnants of humanity flounder, still threatened by a previously fatal virus which has now mutated to just 'dumbing down' its victims to an animal-like state. Determined to prevent his species' extinction, a crazed military Colonel plans to lead a strike force out of his frozen base and destroy Caesar's clan, before they have a chance to relocate to warmer climes and establish a permanent settlement. Knowing the attack is imminent, Caesar sets out to hunt the Colonel and save the lives of his own people. This could be the final stand for both sides...

The Good:
Damn, this film looks great. From the near-perfect 3D to the flawless transition between the human actors, practical effects and digital artistry. There were two, maybe three, moments where I watched Andy Serkis's Caesar and thought 'yeah, that looks animated', but from a 140 minute movie where the rest of it is jaw-droppingly naturalistic, it's nothing to complain about. Speaking of which, the motion-capture work of Mr Serkis as the film's lead character is superb, once again. Woody Harrelson is on fine form as his unhinged nemesis, (even though he veers towards nibbling at the edges of the scenery), and Karin Konoval is utterly enchanting as my favourite, Maurice the orangutan. It's almost a shame that Caesar speaks fluently during his time with the rest of his tribe, as the combination of grunts, sign-language and subtitles between the apes is mesmerising in itself. Michael Giacchino's score is lush, varied and fits the film perfectly (he can do it when he tries).

The Bad:
So WftPotA is very, very good and there's much to love, but the amount of cinematic homage here is borderline obscene. At almost any moment it's being either Apocalypse Now*2, Spartacus or Logan. I honestly expected Amiah Miller's Nova to start popping adamantium claws at any moment (come on 20th Century Fox, do you want to expand and cross-over, or not?). And as with its predecessor, there's little in the way of fun-escapism here. It's less of the 1968 movie's pointed satire of cultural integration and more just an allegory for everybody being a twat all of the time. I read the news Matt Reeves, I know that already. On top of this, the film's final sequence feels like it's been knocked up in post-production, one of about four different endings the studio couldn't quite decide on. While the ending works narratively, the scene feels out of place with the preceding two-and-a-bit hours*3.

And really, though. Who builds a military fortress thinking "so, we just line the outer walls with ready-filled petrol tankers and other explosive materials, yeah? It'll be fine, after all we're in the lee of a snow-covered mountain which looks like it'll avalanche if someone farts in the wrong direction…"

The Ugly:
Dobby The House-Ape*4.

+ + + + +

It's almost a shame that the producers of War for The Planet Of The Apes went for the standard 12A certificate in the UK. The higher 15 would have allowed thematic exploration to become as dark as the story really requires, whilst also raising the intensity of the resulting action.

Then again, had they gone the other way and pushed for a PG rating, I'm sure they could have got a pretty freakin' sweet promotional tie-in deal with a certain tea producer...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, the Planet Of The Apes movies, to be fair.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
For the quality of the visuals and audio, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does, indeed.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
This will be a high-watermark on everyone's CV for some time to come.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not, but it'll depend on why.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one.
And the opening battle has a shedload of arrows being fired and people falling off horses, so there really is no excuse

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Well, other than the best Tusken Raider homage you'll see this year, Supreme Leader Snoke's in this. And so is that as-yet unnamed character from the upcoming Han Solo film. And that bloke who did additional voice-work for The Old Republic.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Seriously, is it just me who thinks they've titled the first two movies the wrong way around, though? Why would you call your first movie Rise when it shows the dawn of the mutation, then call the second one Dawn since that's when the apes rise against humanity? Who the hell's in charge over there? [ BACK ]

*2 I swear to God the only reason the military-base sewer graffiti of 'Ape-ocalypse Now!' exists in the film is to annoy writers into thinking of another witty tagline for their reviews. Fair play... [ BACK ]

*3 Plus, there's not even any banana trees there. I mean basics mate, yeah? [ BACK ]

*4 Placed strategically in an attempt to introduce some humour and cuteness to the proceedings, in a screenplay which neither wants nor needs it. In fairness, the Harry Potter-lite act only really lasts for the first half of the film, after which the character becomes more like Jar Jar Chimps; all stumbling, doe-eyed comedy gurning and "Oh noes! Meesa no goin' back to da soldjer base! Daysa be ALL bombad, dare!". And I say this as someone who actually likes Jar Jar... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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