‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ best series by far

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The third movie in the latest re-booting of the “Planet of the Apes” saga has truly lifted the series way higher than expected. “War for the Planet of the Apes” has been regarded by many as the best of the bunch and I have to say, I would agree for a couple of reasons, but more about that later.

The main reason, however, which I want to talk about first, is quite simply because of one man’s brilliant input. Andy Serkis has become synonymous within the fantasy movie realm for his incredibly realistic animal portrayals, specifically with regard to apes and ape-like creatures. Of course, his most iconic performance was as Smeagol/Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, but he has had a long career in acting, stretching some 30 years through TV, theater and film, and received many awards along the way. He has even begun a directing career this year with the critically acclaimed “Breathe.” He is also involved with the final trilogy in the “Star Wars” saga, playing Supreme Leader Snoke and will be reprising his role in “Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi” out on Dec. 15.

After working with Peter Jackson on his re-boot of “King Kong” (2005) in which he brilliantly played the part of Kong himself, using some amazing acting skills matched with full-body motion capture, it was easy to see why he would be the perfect choice to play Caesar in the new rebooted trilogy of “Planet of the Apes.”

So here now, we come to this third release in the series, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and Serkis’ masterful continuation as the ape leader who began a revolution of evolution that changed the world…

It is now two years since the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and after the war started by the vengeful Koba, the world is still seeing an alarming escalation of hostilities between man and ape. A new fighting force known as Alpha-Omega, lead by a mysterious colonel, played with an alarmingly effective punch by Woody Harrelson, is in the midst of confronting and trying to destroy the ape population.

Caesar, played to brilliant effect once again by Serkis, and his now-whole community of apes are trying to survive and are looking to end hostilities and find peace.

One night, after a group of human fighters, led by the colonel, attack and kill many of Caesar’s family and friends, he tries to catch and kill the colonel, killing all the other human soldiers in the process.

Caesar decides to go after the colonel to exact revenge for killing his wife and son, taking Maurice, Luca and Rocket with him as he sets off on his quest. They find a settlement and inadvertently kill the human occupant. There they also find a young human girl who is mute, played by newcomer Amiah Miller, and fearing for her safety, decide to take her with them. They eventually come upon the colonel’s encampment where apes have been enslaved and forced to build a huge wall which, through careful deduction, Caesar realizes is actually to keep out an approaching human army. From here on, Caesar and his team allow themselves to be captured in order to help the enslaved apes escape, but will he be able to save any of them and avoid getting tangled up in what is essentially a human war? Well, there are many plot twists and revelations to keep things rolling along and some amazingly emotional and gentle scenes are crossed with some truly awesome battles and confrontations — the rest, of course, you will have to find out for yourself. All I will say is that it will keep you glued to your seat until the very end.

Originally written as a novel in 1963 by Pierre Boulle, “Planet of the Apes” has been an integral cornerstone of the sci-fi genre ever since the first movie was released in 1968. Regarded as a classic, featured in many “Top 100 All Time” movie lists and winning several awards, including an Oscar for its incredibly innovative make-up achievements, it has spawned four sequels, a successful TV series and also an animated TV series. Even Tim Burton tried to re-boot the saga with his own version in 2001, but to no avail.

Now, with a fresh look at the entire story and going back to its origins, the new trilogy has certainly gone way beyond all expectations, mainly as I stated, due to Serkis’ brilliant input.

For me, the thing that works best of all is the deeply emotional connection that is purveyed throughout the story, that the apes, the so-called villains, according to the humans, are actually the most gentle and caring ones of all.

Whilst we see the colonel show himself to be brutal and determined to see the end of the ape race, we also get to see his frail, emotionally shattered and scared side also. As he and Caesar stand face to face, we simply see the same turmoil, the same fight for survival and the same suffering in their eyes… They are the same, separated only by an inherent fear that each one has had forced upon him by their disparate societies.

For director Matt Reeves, who also directed the previous one in the trilogy, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” building the whole premise around the emotional frailty of the opposing players, rather than just taking on a large-scale war scenario, has made this a triumph. It shows a depth of humanity (or should I perhaps say ape-nity) that raises this movie to such a higher level that I might even go as far as saying it is simply one of the best of the year!

Many critics and fans alike are saying that Serkis should really be recognized for his astounding performance as Caesar. Even under cover of the motion capture state-of-the-art effects, his performance is truly inspiring and, I have to say, almost Shakespearean. Perhaps the Oscar board should take note and consider this extraordinary case for consideration. Someone even said, jokingly, there should be a category set up and called “The Andy Serkis Award for best performance whilst never showing one’s actual face,” and the winner would be, well, Mr. Serkis to start with, of course!

All joking aside, I totally recommend this movie, and indeed the other two in this trilogy reboot, for all the reasons stated but also because it has taken what could so easily have been an over-blown big-budget action film and raised the bar so high, it actually seems even bigger than the sum of its parts. The characters and their emotional depths make this a true epic in so much more than just the brilliant visuals. Even though this is the final part of the trilogy, somehow I think there is going to be room made for more to come, but let’s hope for all the right reasons.

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“War for the Planet of the Apes” (PG-13), a Fox release, is now out on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Roy Morris is a freelance writer. He can be reached by email at amorris1989@hotmail.com.

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