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| 27 July 2017 | Reply

Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Steve Zahn
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

8 ½ /10

There’s a distinct Apocalypse Now feel to this third instalment in the rebooted Planet Of The Apes saga. Woody Harrelson’s Colonel – bald, psychotic and obviously channeling Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz – talks of beheadings with a messianic fervour, waves of fire-spewing choppers sweep in to attack the icy army base, and if that wasn’t enough to take us into the heart of darkness, co-writer and director Matt Reeves – returning from his successful stint on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – literally spells it out in graffiti on a tunnel wall: “Ape-ocalypse Now.”

Two years on from Koba’s betrayal of Caesar’s ape tribe, and the attack on what was left of humanity which sparked this devastating war, Caesar’s apes are trying to live away from humanity in deep forest, but what’s left of the US army – under The aforementioned Colonel – is determined to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Reeves continues to adeptly show that often humans are the basest animals of all, reminding us of our selfishness, greed and intolerance time and again. Caesar wants an end to the fighting, but of course, humans being humans, The Colonel escalates and Caesar suffers great personal loss as a result, forcing him to confront his own dark side.

Andy Serkis’s Caesar, Karin Konoval’s orangutan Maurice, and Steve Zahn’s comic relief ex-zoo inmate Bad Ape are rendered stunningly lifelike using motion capture and CGI technology. It’s hard to imagine that they’re not real – and Reeves captures every nuanced emotion with some incredibly tight close-ups.

The star of the show, however, is then-11-year-old Amiah Miller, who plays the wide-eyed mute Nova (another of many references to the original ‘60s and ‘70s films). Without words she conveys remarkable emotion and the gravitas of a seasoned pro. It’s a breakout performance.

As Caesar, Maurice, Bad Ape & Nova get closer to the human base, they realise that The Colonel is not only insane, but also rogue from the larger army forces. A retro-virus de-evolving humans into mute beasts also casts a large shadow over proceedings.

The Planet Of The Apes series has always been an allegory for the damage humanity wreaks upon the earth and other species. Here, whilst there are some satisfying action and battle scenes, the war is mostly the internal conflict: what would you do when faced with your race’s extinction? Would it drive you insane? Are war crimes and genocide acceptable to preserve your own race? Most of all it shows that when compassion and reason are lost, violence and atrocities can only escalate.

The retro-virus – and a dramatic penultimate scene which we won’t spoiler for you – speak of nature righting itself, or at least the wrongs done to it.

War For The Planet Of The Apes is a little muddled in its storytelling at times, and a little obvious in proselytising, but it’s at least on a par with its reboot predecessors – and it’s no surprise that although it was touted as the final part of the franchise, a fourth instalment has already been announced.

I love the smell of ape-dom in the morning.




Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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