Monday, February 19, 2018

Movie with Abe: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Matt Reeves
Released July 14, 2017

When a series contains infinite installments and doesn’t want to simply place a number after each of its titles, it becomes necessary to distinguish between each with a descriptive word. For this reboot of the ape-centric universe first introduced to the world in novel form in 1963 and then in film in 1968, first came the Rise in 2011, then the Dawn in 2014, and now the War in 2017. I already questioned why the Rise predated the Dawn in my review of the previous film, and the opening credits for this latest film explain in further detail how all the relatively unengaging drama involving these superintelligent apes went down.

Following the revolt against the humans led by the evil Koba, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of apes are in hiding and constantly on the run from the vindictive Colonel J. Wesley McCollough (Woody Harrelson) and his military group Alpha-Omega, which includes a number of Koba’s followers who are treated as inferior to the humans. Caesar’s desire not to create more conflict is threatened by the onslaught of hatred and violence that he and his kind find everywhere they go, yet he does not give up hope of keeping his apes safe and establishing some sort of peace.

The original series of movies included five films, the last of which, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” apparently bears the most similarity to this one. By that token, it doesn’t seem like a good omen that the third installment of this new series already feels tiresome and pointless, with apes on both sides of the conflict and no real sign that convincing a few people that they’re not bad is going to prevent the next group of ate-hating humans from coming after them. Though this film received even better reviews than the last two, this reviewer found it to be more cumbersome than the second, which was considerably less engaging and worthwhile than the first.

What does distinguish it from the previous two films is that there is no sympathetic human, portrayed previously by Jason Clarke and James Franco, to anchor the apes’ connection to humanity. Worse still, Harrelson seems like the perfect actor to play a scenery-chewing, ape-hating general reminiscent of Stephen Lang’s Colonel Quaritch in “Avatar,” but the actor, Oscar nominated for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” this year, delivers one of his more muted, unmemorable performances. Serkis is good as always, and the film’s visual effects, recognized yet again for an Oscar, continue to be the film’s most impressive asset. For non-ape fans, however, this film is simply boring and another unnecessary chapter in a saga that’s much less compelling than most other dystopian sci-fi.


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