Thursday, July 20, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!   I said, War for the Planet of the Apes, huh, good god ya'll...what is it good for?

War for the Planet of the Apes – 5 out of 5

I love the camp of the original Planet of the Apes films (and the less I acknowledge the existence of Tim Burton’s one the better) but this new rebooted franchise is just amazing!  I absolutely love it and it feels like with every passing film they seem to get better.  Look, I have room in my heart for both of the series but right now I’m going to talk about the latest release; War for the Planet of the Apes, and it is awesome!

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
Caesar's look of disappointment when someone ate his lunch out of the
communal fridge.

Some time after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is trying to live a peaceful life in the forests with the rest of his highly intelligent ape clan.  However, after an attack from a military group called Alpha Omega, led by a madly driven Colonel (Woody Harrelson), against their camp, Caesar is forced to undergo a mission of revenge with his clan seeks a land that promises them freedom and their own society.  Along the way, Caesar learns that the world that they know is changing more rapidly and dramatically than they realized and nothing will ever be the same.

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Accessories makes the sunglasses or a giant gorilla.

Like I stated earlier, I do enjoy the old sci-fi fun that is the original series but this new franchise is really doing it for me.  The darker twists the story takes combined with its emphasis on the emotional drama and its state-of-the-art special effects and motion capture work makes for a film that feels so amazingly authentic and captivating.  They really show the depth that science fiction and storytelling can go.  With every passing film, I find myself becoming more engrossed with the universe they exist in and this one might be my favorite one yet.   

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
The real heroes of this film are the horses...for being able to carry that
massive orangutan and the huge gorilla.

Co-writer and director Matt Reeves (I’m excited to see what he brings to the table with Batman) expanded on his work in the previous film and evolved the world exponentially well.  The way he used this film to continue Caesar’s tale and also get us closer to the world that will be the Planet of the Apes is nothing short of amazing to experience.  Even more impressive is how Reeves never rushed any development the film was taking.  Everything about the story builds and evolves at its own needed pace but it never made the plot feel like it was dragging or like the film had varying paces—the whole thing felt like it ebbed and flowed at all the right parts and it made the story even more compelling.  Then, all of this built to a fantastic reward of some incredible action in the final act.   

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
Sure, if this was three humans it would be cool but being apes makes
it was more epic.

However, this part is only a fraction of why this story is incredible because he also majestically paints a beautifully tragic and terrifically hopeful tale that is just overflowing with heart, emotion, and drama.  You find yourself invested in the survival of the apes, appalled by the behavior of the humans, and entranced with the burden of leadership and the wounds of heartbreak that Caesar carries around with him.  With a rousing score by Michael Gracchino that highlights and enhances the drama and action, the end result is a film that is both visually stunning but deeply satisfying on an emotional level.  I won’t lie, this film had me tearing up on several occasions.  Of course, the film isn’t only just heaviness as there is a fair share of light-hearted moments that are very amusing and can arrive and assist without feeling they are taking away from the serious tone.  For example, Steven Zahn joins the cast as Bad Ape—an ape Caesar and the crew stumble upon and learn that the evolution of apes is spreading across the world—and he provides a lot of fun but isn’t causing a chaotic shift in tone.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
I really liked Bad Ape...both because he's funny and was played by
Steve Zahn.

Another element that this franchise is known for is the way it uses motion-capture animation to bring their apes to life.  There is a charm to the marks with the wonky mouths from the old days but this rebooted franchise is really bringing the realism.  With the master of mo-cap as the lead once again, War actually feels like it has even better special effects—which is pretty impressive considering how the other films are just insanely well done.  It was so easy to get lost in the detail of the apes—the way their eyes moved, the flow of their fur, the skin tones and facial expression.  There was never a period where they felt like they were created in a computer.  They all looked so amazingly real and it only worked to enhance the dramatic and emotional tone that Reeves crafted.

                                                                                                          20th Century Fox
This little human edition is a big hint of things to come with this franchise.

The final thing that really ties the film together is the performances.  Some people will look at mo-cap characters and say they’re just made in a computer and the actor is only giving them a voice but when you really absorb what a master like Andy Serkis is doing you can see that’s a gross over-simplification that feels entirely wrong.  Yes, a team of animators is making the character look real but the actor is giving them soul and their performance is captured in that collection of pixels and one’s and zero’s.  What you’re seeing may be rendered in a computer but it’s still given life by the actors.  It also goes without saying that the flesh and blood cast—Woody Harrelson and Amiah Miller as the mute girl Nova that orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) takes in—is all doing their job as amazingly as the mo-cap cast.

                                                                                                         20th Century Fox
Is there a movie that Woody Harrelson sucks in?  The answer is 'no.'

Did I find any drawbacks or anything that didn’t work about War for the Planet of the Apes?  Absolutely not.  The storytelling, the action, the drama, the special effects—everything about this film worked for what it had to be and it delivered with a truly stunning film.  There were some fantastic developments to the mythology that kept it from being a filler film and it culminated in an ending that was both emotional and hopeful.  It’s strange to call a film about apes talking over the world of man “beautiful” but that’s exactly what this film is.

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