DREW’S REVIEWS: War for the Planet of the Apes – Wish I went bananas for it

By Andrew Jenck

Andrew Jenck graduated from Tillamook High School and is a student at the University of Portland, studying business and competing with the Cross Country team. His hobbies include playing video games, reading comic books, and talking with friends. He is an avid movie fan, and he will show Pioneer readers which movies are worth the price of admission.

The new Apes trilogy is a bit of an odd species. The set of prequels to the 1968 original film have been well-received by both critics and audiences, yet don’t have the same cultural impact some other blockbusters have; which I attribute to their subject matter. Its themes of humanity, revenge, and personal demons have been exploited so much in entertainment that, although well-executed here, keep me from loving these films and War is no different. Make no mistake, this is a smartly-written, gorgeous film that will most likely be one of the best blockbusters of the year, but as much as the characters are worth investing, the themes may not stick with you for long.

I have to give great compliments to director Matt Reeves and his special effects team. The apes are some of the most realistic CGI creatures I’ve seen on film, and the expressions of the apes provide great nuances; all of which adds to these characters. The film is smart enough to not hammer in its message by allowing for slower moments to let the characters breathe. With most of the apes only able to speak in sign and paired with a mute girl, the film relies heavily on the character’s facial expressions. The way the characters look at each other or react to their actions speaks louder than a preachy speech of conflicting philosophies.
Great performances are abundant throughout. The motion capture done on the main character, Caesar, by Andy Serkis brings the character to life and makes you feel the inner struggle that this character is experiencing. Serkis has been known for great motion capture, such as Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and makes Caesar one of the best original movie characters from this decade. Woody Harrelson is engaging as the Colonel, and sells him as a mirrored version of Caesar. Steve Zhan as Bad Ape offers the right amount of comic relief for a dreary story, Karin Konoval as Maurice is great as Caesar’s emotional support, and newcomer Amiah Miller brings a great emotional range as the girl (her name is a spoiler).
It’s also refreshing that the marketing of a blockbuster revealed no plot revelations, to the point where I didn’t exactly know where the film was going by the third act; though it has been misleading. By the title, you would expect this to be an all-out war for, well, the planet, but the action is surprisingly miniscule. There are only three action set pieces, one of which is just a backdrop for the characters’ real struggles and all of which are restricted. This may turn off some, seeing how the marketing shows a grand finale to a trilogy. Still, I do think the story presented is more interesting than a global-scale war film. You’re still invested with these characters, and their chemistry with each other is believable.
Still, with all the nuanced performances, great cinematography, natural-sounding dialogue, and stunning visuals, I kept wishing that I was more invested. I wanted to see Caesar lead his tribe to safety, I wanted him to overcome his demons, and I cared for every major character. However, I wasn’t on the verge of tears, such as some other emotional movies have left me. I’ve loved films that didn’t have the most compelling themes, but something about the subject matter of this film just doesn’t hit as close to home as other films. Even films that are objectively not as good as this left a bigger impact on me. Nevertheless, this is just nitpicking. I can’t necessarily disagree with the acclaim it has received; it probably just boils down to my personal taste. At the end of the day, it’s a really good, not entirely thought-provoking film, that’s well worth the price of admission.