I’m going to call it early: the Planet of the Apes reboot has left the best until last. War for the Planet of the Apes is the best instalment perhaps since the 1968 original, and you don’t need to have seen any of the other films to catch it in the cinema and love it.
In the original, it’s obvious the audience is supposed to be firmly on the side of the humans. Charlton Heston memorably hates on the “damn, dirty apes” who dared to try and cross him. In 2017, however, you might just side with the plight of the apes, and that’s largely down to a stellar performance from Andy Serkis as ape-leader Caesar.
War is directed by Matt Reeves and kicks off in a very war-like manner: a bloody battle to the death between humans and apes mounted on horseback. Mankind have been all but wiped out by a virus. As the apes grow more intelligent and vocal, and Caesar and his tribe want to live in peace with what’s left of humanity. But when has humanity ever been good at peace?
Cue a war of mind games, monkey-versus-vengeful human style. Caesar and his allies send most of their monkey clan to find safety, and take off after the too-close-for-comfort threat of the US army. Along the way they pick up a mute human girl (charmingly played by Amiah Miller) and an escaped Zoo chimp who speaks only in broken English and doesn’t really know how to be a monkey. The self-proclaimed ‘bad monkey’ manages to bring a little welcome comedy to the screen without it feeling forced. Caesar’s problems continue as he repeatedly entangles with a colonel with a few screws loose and a kidnapping plot.
The plot alone could have held my attention over the two hours and twenty minutes of the film takes, but this review would not be complete without mentioning the gorgeous cinematography. The motion capture apes seamlessly moving against the backdrop of lush forests and snowy mountains make you forget that they’re animated at all. You could easily believe that these monkeys are real, even though they’re riding horses and wielding guns. When a human solider says to Caesar “My God, your face, it’s almost human” I found myself nodding along in agreement.
At the end of the day though it’s the combat and conflict that propels the film forward. There are terribly tense and exciting action scenes, including a prison break, that make for an intimate and epic adventure. Here are your weekend plans sorted: catch War for the Planet of the Apes in cinemas. It’s one that you have to experience on the big screen.