Andy Serkis, Caesar, Cinema, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Film, Film Review, Koba, Matt Reeves, Movie, Movie Review, Planet of the Apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes, Woody Harrelson
“War for the Planet of the Apes” has received mixed to positive reviews since its release earlier this month, with the majority of reviewers calling it the best film of the series so far. I had high hopes having enjoyed both of the previous films and I genuinely believed that “War” would be a great movie.
Sadly, it just isn’t. It fell short of my expectations in almost every area and left me feeling more than a tinge of disappointment. The visual effects were amazing once again and both Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson gave decent performances, but that doesn’t save it from an awful script.
From a storytelling perspective this film is incredibly clichéd and lazy, with every narrative string feeling contrived and uninspired. The writing was atrocious with almost every line of dialogue being used as exposition, and the subtitles that were used to explain the apes’ sign-language verged on ridiculous.
Just like in the previous film the apes make small hand gestures which are then inexplicably accompanied by complex sentences in bright yellow text at the bottom of the screen. The information that the apes are trying to convey isn’t as complicated as these subtitles would have us believe, and the subtitles themselves are distracting to the point that you really have to question what the director was thinking by including them. The first thirty minutes of the movie would’ve worked just as well without any subtitles because the gestures that the apes made combined with their facial expressions were enough to convey their emotions to the audience.
The fact that the choice was made to leave the subtitles in speaks to a larger issue, which is that the writers and director Matt Reeves simply don’t respect their audience. The emotional moments in “War” are manipulative and the filmmakers expect the audience to be invested in virtue of the fact that they’ve seen the characters before, and as such they forgo significant character development in service of portraying Caesar (Andy Serkis) as some sort of messiah.
The plot is completely idiotic and filled with holes that are absolutely unforgiveable if you’re paying proper attention. I won’t get into spoilers in this review – partly because I want people who haven’t seen the film to come to their own conclusions and partly because I don’t have the patience to go through each and every issue – but I will say that there are cages with no rooves and guards that may as well be blind.
There are very few positives to be found within the excessive runtime of “War” and the value of said positives depends entirely on what you want going in. The best thing about the film is its stunning visuals. This film knows how to make the most of CGI and the apes look as close to real as they possibly can, given the limitations of modern technology. We aren’t at the point where they look real, but we’re pretty close. The environments are also beautiful and the barren landscape provides the sense that the world is on the edge of apocalypse. Still, how much this praise is worth is debateable and for me it doesn’t enhance the film anywhere near as much as it needs to.
At the end of the day I can’t say that I liked this movie; if anything I detested it. It wasn’t just the fact that it tarnished two films that I enjoyed or the fact that the writing was laughable; it was the fact that it felt like a film that didn’t believe in its audience. Every plot point was signposted from start to finish, with Reeves beating us over the head with information as though we’re too stupid to understand even the most basic of ideas. The sad thing is that most critics proved him right by praising “War” as ‘the best film in the franchise’ – a title which only serves to devalue “Rise” and “Dawn”. Don’t believe the hype; this film is utterly vacuous.