I left the cinema after seeing The War for the Planet of the Apes, wondering if I had seen the same flick as the woman sitting next to me. She was reduced to tears, literally blubbering for a good part of the flick, while I sat there stunned at a grim pile of tired clichés that played out before my eyes. How can this be? I suppose, if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise (which I am not) you get more of the characters and world you’ve come to love, even if there isn’t much of a story this time out. Even so, this final episode could have been edited down to a tidy half hour before reaching its well-telegraphed conclusion. Instead it was two and a half hours of cruelty, platitudes and boredom.
We catch up with the ageing Caesar, the wisdom-spouting patriarch of his clan of multicultural/multi-species apes, still fighting off skirmishes with humans, who are now reduced to monsters. As the Colonel says, “We have to give up our humanity to save humanity!” The apes are still seeking a safe haven to live their lives in peace and harmony, where the humans cannot find them – and decide to move to the desert. Because apes thrive in a desert environment? Since when?
As they make their plans, the humans attack, viciously murdering as many apes as they can find, including Caesar’s wife and son. He’s held the moral high ground for all these years, through the endless atrocities humans have wrought on them, but at last, he falls to the same rage and hatred that consumed Koba. Caesar orders the rest of the apes to carry on their mission to reach the desert while he confronts his nemesis, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson, who has all the best moments of the movie.) Accompanied by three compatriots, he sets off on horseback through the pristine Colorado landscape, littered with the decaying remnants of human civilisation, acquiring a fifth impish ape and a darling little deaf-mute girl along the way. (The only good human is a deaf-mute child, who didn’t mind stumbling onto her father’s freshly killed corpse?)
After an interminable trek filled with adorable hi-jinks and profound declarations, they finally reach the Colonel’s Camp – an abandoned munitions plant high in the snowy mountains and find the rest of the apes have been captured and forced to work without food or water – building a wall so The Colonel can defend his base from human forces coming to destroy him from the north. Defiant apes are subject to horrendous torture and left to die. It seems hopeless of course, but fortunately there are an abundance of easily accessed resources for Caesar and his followers to exploit – and the (very brief) war commences at last. Caesar gets his final showdown with The Colonel and well – no need for spoilers, every scene is telegraphed well in advance, so there are no surprises and it ends exactly as you know it will.
If the storyline is uninspired, the technical aspects of the movie are impeccable. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar as he breathes life into the ape through the perfect CGI the ape feels completely alive. The rest of Caesar’s crew are also brought to life in exquisite, multi-species detail. Director Matt Reeves continues to deliver his big scenes and abundant heart-felt moments. What’s missing is the story – that all happened in the first two flicks. This amounts to a redundant wrap-up.
Watch the trailer here: