12A – 141mins – 2017 – 3D
In my time as webmaster of The CR@Bpendium, I have noticed that a guilty tendency of mine is to lavish blockbuster sequels in franchises I adore with 5-star ratings. The Force Awakens and Rogue One, for instance, were always destined to be looked upon kindly by me, a long-time Star Wars fan. Yet more casual movie watchers may recognise issues, however minor, with both films which would impede a perfect score in the eyes of the general public.
Having come this far you may have cast your eyes south at the five golden CR@Bs which close out this review and think “Here we go again!” But while, yes, I do love Planet of the Apes (even the five original rubber mask-addled films which began in the 1960s and the mid-70s small screen spin-off) and I have been highly anticipating this second sequel for some three years, never has a perfect score been more richly deserved. Even after a single viewing I am confident that War may crack my top five. Not of 2017, but of all time.
From the tribal drums which soundtrack the 20th Century Fox logo to the use of the previous reboot film titles – Rise and Dawn – in the title-card prologue catch-up, returning director Matt Reeves and his co-writer Mark Bomback do not put a paw wrong. The characters are strong-willed and endearing, the drama resonant and tense, the action sequences are epic and dizzying, the cinematography is gloriously artistic, the narrative poetic, the horror haunting and the motion-capture effects work faultless.
I laughed, I cried, I gasped and I cringed as talismanic ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, with more to do and say than ever before) leads a small-but-loyal contingent of his followers – along with outsider “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn; humorously kooky) and a lonely young war orphan (Amiah Miller) – against a vicious and obsessive human Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and his army of paramilitary insurgents who are determined to capture and enslave the growing ape community, and kill if need be.
Evolving beyond what people have come to expect from a CG-laden summer popcorn film, War for the Planet of the Apes is a deep, dark, heart-breaking and truly touching masterpiece. It incorporates cheer-worthy links and nods to the original saga (Alpha/Omega, Nova, the mute humans) as well as introducing bold new elements which tie the reboot trilogy together (disillusioned apes who work for the humans are nicknamed “Donkeys”; the ghost of Koba – the murdered war-monger from Dawn – still haunts moral-minded Caesar).
If, as has been suggested, this is the closing chapter of the Apes, then the series could not have bowed out in classier style. Yet when films are this sublime you never want the story to end – and besides, we still need to be introduced to a twenty-first century Dr Zaius! Reeves might next be moving to Gotham City, but here’s hoping he makes a return visit to this Planet again soon.
CR@B’s Claw Score: