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War for the Planet of the Apes – A Review

apesposterRise of the Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite movie going experiences of the last ten years. I wanted to see it, but in no way did I think it was going to be good. Even when the reviews dropped, I had no real idea what to expect. I was taken aback by the movie. The “NO!” moment of Rise made my jaw drop, it was so shocking and thrilling. It was, and still is, a fantastic film.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a stressful one, because everything you want to happen goes wrong. The conflict between the fading humans and “dawning” apes of the movie felt like it was tipping over for two hours and was intense with little relief. It’s an impressive sequel, and darker as well.

And with that we come to War for the Planet of the Apes. The first thing to mention is that this third film is bleaker than the last two. This isn’t a triumphant, crowd pleasing series topper. It’s dark, depressing and the light at the end of the tunnel feels dimmer than one might hope to see.

The movie opens with a battle between human military and an ape fort. The military is out to end the ape problem once and for all, hoping to kill the simian leader (and hero of the series) Caesar. When Caesar offers peace once more and things go wrong again, it’s time for treaties to end. Caesar gets selfish and, of course, things don’t work out and the rest of the movie is about Caesar trying to amend his mistakes.

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Did I mention the movie is bleak? It’s winter, so the movie is full of dead landscapes and gray skies. The world feels like it’s fading away. The people left alive aren’t the best humanity has to offer. Even the apes feel directionless, trapped between annihilation or all out war.

The movie also spends a lot of time in a military base that really brings the dark. Cages, work forces, fanatics with omega tattoos. Director Matt Reeves seems to be channeling his best Spielberg with this set, with more than one allusion to Schindler’s List. And that won’t be the last movie referenced either. The film is built off of the blueprints of The Ten Commandments, Apocalypse Now and True Grit. 

While Rise was a boiler and Dawn was an all out blockbuster, War is character piece. It’s a contemplative film, more focused on Caesar’s journey than an actual war. This might put some off, as there’s very little in the way of action set pieces, save for the opening and climax. Nothing on par with the apes escaping in Rise or the raid on the human settlement in Dawn. The moments of action we see are more harrowing than thrilling. While I liked the film, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that the series ends on smaller notes. But it resonates at the end, in ways that Dawn didn’t.

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-offical-trailer-7

Woody Harrelson is a scary guy in the movie. He’s crazy, sure, but he’s focused. He’s in charge. His life is violence and he’s made tough choices, even if he wasn’t forced into them. He’s a bit like Patton, a bit of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. He hates the newly intelligent apes, but needs them. Like Caesar, his mistakes might threaten his own people.

Of course, it’s Caesar who owns the screen. Ever since the first in this new reboot series, Caesar has carried these movies. Surrounded by character actors, Andy Serkis continues to be the most compelling actor on screen and makes Caesar a hero to root for. The work begun with Gollum has been refined to perfection. Caesar is now one of the great movie characters of all time.

ltxlrsiw1tvsuzmnv47lLike this year’s Logan, which left me depressed in all sorts of ways, War attaches itself to you and ruins your day. I don’t know how rewatchable a film like that is, as blockbusters don’t do that too often. The Hunger Games and it’s sequels had a stronghold for a while on depressing, big budget dystopias. The “fun” of Rise is gone in this third chapter and replaced with something that’s a bit more meaningful, but less enjoyable. It’s a movie that’s good for you, it tricks you into eating your vegetables with large scale storytelling and CGI apes. But you wouldn’t want to see this every weekend at the movies, it would be horrible for your good mood. A fun time? Not really. Recommended? Absolutely.

Summer Movies 2014

hr_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_29.jpgIt’s my favorite movie season of all! Seriously, I enjoy being able to go to the movies every other week during the season, though I hope that this change we’re seeing is really happening and bigger movies come out year round. Captain America came out in April and is still doing big bucks. But I doubt Summer Movie Season will ever go away and it’s here again! Will this year be another fantastic one like 2003? Or will it be a painful drought like 2009? Does anyone (besides me) even remember what movies came out those years (comment in the comments!) But here’s my looking forward at this summer season and the movies I’m going to see.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
So here’s the first Marvel movie that I’m going to that feels like I’m attending out of obligation. I’m not thrilled with the idea that this is the Spider-Man universe we’re going to be in for the foreseeable future. Also, it just makes me miss the original series even more, but that’s a problem with an easily rewatchable solution. Maybe all the pre-planning that’s going on for this franchise is giving me fatigue already, but I can’t think of much that I’m excited for in this sequel. I might be surprised, or I might be annoyed.

UhmBk3hNeighbors
Okay, I don’t have a lot to say here, but it looks like I’ll be seeing this one. The wife thinks it looks hilarious and the right people will be in town at the right time. It looks funny, I liked This is the End but comedies are always a toss-up for me when I’m not the one wanting to go. Stay tuned!

Godzilla
I wasn’t interested, than I was interested, now I’m hesitant. I like Godzilla but I’m not sure I’m into their take of grounding it in real life. I tend to want my bigger stuff free of reality. I also prefer monster movies over disaster films, and yes, I do see a difference. But it might work and so far, the previews have made the monster look great and I’m sure it will be tons of fun.

x1X-Men: Days of Future Past
The movie that I’m looking forward to the most this summer. If I only get to see one, this will be it. The X-Men franchise has been like a rocky romance; it started great, started having real problems that almost lead to a breakup, but they’ve really seemed to pull it back together. It’s been two great movies since the last bad one and this one looks like it’s going to carry on the good a while longer. There’s a lot I’m excited for in this film and I think it’s going to deliver.

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Crap. There’s only one movie I want to see in June and it’s Transformers? Put me in the “I know it’s gonna be bad, but I’m seeing anyway” category, if only because I’ve seen them all in theaters anyway. At least this will have Dinobots and less of the old crew. I guess it’s my fault for not wanting to see Tom Cruise’s scifi picture or How to Train Your Dragon.  This is my penance. Also, I’m Protestant so I don’t have a theological point for penance. But there was a X-Men named Penance and now I’ve lost my train of thought.

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_a_pDawn of the Planet of the Apes
The first film looked cheesy but turned out to be amazing and one of my favorite movies. I’m still nervous about this sequel, since a lot of the people involved with Rise aren’t here, but the studios might have known to keep the quality going. I’m excited to see where things are going with this franchise but less excited to see Gary Oldman.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Probably number two on my most anticipated list. I’m one of the few people who has read the comics for these characters, so I’m interested in what they’re going to do, while nervous if it will work out for Marvel. The trailer gives off a Farscape vibe to me and that’s not a bad thing. I’m waiting for a new trailer, since the one out doesn’t give a lot of information or lines for Rocket Raccoon, but that’ got my money already.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 

Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
It took them long enough to make the sequel and it might have been too long. I’ll probably go, but my interest level is close to empty on this one.

There they are, the movies I want to see this summer. Looking at them, it’s a weird season. May is front loaded, June and July both have one film each, and August of all months has three? I’m sure there’ll be a surprise movie or two that I wasn’t planning on seeing. I’ll try to keep up with reviews, but since I never got around to talking about Captain America, I’m not sure how good I’ll be about it this summer. Expect a summary of the end of summer, though.

What about you? Movies you’re looking forward to? Not looking forward to at all? Disagree with me? Mad at me because I’m not interested in training dragons? Comment in the comments!