The original Planet of the Apes film was released nearly fifty years ago, in 1968. The third film in a reboot series that began back in 2011, War for the Planet of the Apes finds co-writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) using new technology to create a new adventure that feels like something out of the classic series. In this case, I mean that in a positive way…
Despite the apes’ desire for peace, the war with man continues. Caesar (Andy Serkis), leader of the apes is constantly hunted by Colonel (Woody Harrelson) his men, and their Donkey’s–apes who’ve chosen to work for the humans. Caesar’s goal of peace is consumed by a personal need for revenge when the Colonel takes his family away.
While everything about War for the Planet of the Apes is big and dramatic–there are plenty of epic battle and impressive special effects–there are epic battles, and plenty of special effects–Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback have still managed to tell a thought provoking story, and allowed the main characters to show real emotional complexity. As Caesar copes with the loss of his family, he struggles to balance his anger with the need for revenge. In the past, Caesar has always been easy to peg as the most humane of apes, but now, with his world in tatters, everything we thought we knew about him is up for debate. Really, it’s a fascinating character…simian study.
Other apes make their mark as well. Maurice (Karin Konoval) is the orangutan that acts as Caesar’s conscience, and Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape provides the only humor to the proceedings as an ape in human clothes who’s escaped from a nearby zoo. There aren’t many laughs to be found in War for the Planet of the Apes, but Zahn does a fine job in a limited role. I imagine there were those who thought it troublesome to focus on the non-human characters so much, even if our sympathy is with them. Surprisingly though, I think the decision to have the Colonel take a back seat, worked very well.
The audience is given enough backstory to understand what drives the Colonel’s desire to kill the apes. It might even be possible for some viewers to sympathize with the old soldier…a little bit. However, when it comes down to it, the Colonel is clearly not in his right mind, thus he represents a narrative shift in humanity. As the Apes films progress, the simians become more humane, while the humans become more primitive. This is especially interesting because it harkens back to the original 1968 film.
Those looking for a simple, over-the-top, effects driven story may be disappointed in War for the Planet of the Apes. The classic feel of the story may be too serious for some audiences. The filmmakers are to be commended for putting forth a strong narrative, rather than relying the excitement of special effects to keep the audience engaged.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, War for the Planet of the Apes has been given a solid 1080p transfer. Sharpness is strong, and print flaws aren’t in evidence. The teal oriented palette, offset with some brushes of orange isn’t particularly original, but handled well. Blacks are inky, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. All in all, this is a pleasing image.
The DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack is well rendered, creating an enveloping soundscape. All channels were used consistently throughout the presentation, adding necessary punch to various action scenes, and special effects. Dialogue is clean, clear, and concise throughout.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Matt Reeves: In this running, screen-specific commentary, Reeves discusses the story, characters, how it all relates to the last film, the cast and their performances, sets, locations, effects, and more.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 23:03) Ten in all, these can be viewed with or without commentary from Matt Reeves.
- Waging War for the Planet of the Apes (HD, 29:38) Various members of the cast and crew participate in what is basically an above average EPK.
- All About Caesar (HD, 12:40) A look at the character in general, as well as some of the motion capture, and photo realistic CGI elements that are are part of creating the character.
- Weta: Pushing Boundaries (HD, 10:36) The films amazing special effects.
- Music for Apes (HD, 6:20) In the recording studio with composer Michael Giacchino.
- Apes: The Meaning of It All (HD, 20:15) An overview that takes us all the way back to the 1968 original film.
- The Apes Saga: An Homage (HD, 7:48) A return to some of the “classic films” in the franchise to examine some of its underlying concepts.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6:54) Three in total.
- Concept Art Gallery:
- Digital HD.
- Ultra Violet.
Movie title: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
Director(s): Matt Reeves
Actor(s): Andy Serkis , Woody Harrelson , Steve Zahn , Judy Greer , Karin Konoval , Amiah Miller
Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Drama, Action