War For the Planet of the Apes (2017)

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Matt Reeves directs Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn in this blockbuster final chapter to the exemplary Apes prequel series. 

Despite not being revered or as embraced as a phenomenon as say Lord of the Rings,  Bourne or The Dark Knight Trilogy, this franchise has hit for the exact same classy focus on emotion, intelligence and mature storytelling as those recent high watermarks. This concluding chapter shifts perspective fully onto the simians, there’s no human protoganist to explore the world with anymore. Good. Serkis’ Caesar has been one of the most engaging and emotionally conflicted heroes to emerge out of mainstream cinema in decades. You connect to his struggle and arc more so than any tentpole icon I can think of since… fuck…. let’s say… Martin Riggs. As a cinematic experience there has been a shameless attempt to homage just about every great adventure from the history of cinema here… even The Overlook Hotel of The Shining and the most memorable moment of The Last of the Mohicans are recycled and converted. It does prove a little wearying as the movie random shuffles through plot beats plundered from Apocalypse Now to Unforgiven to The Hidden Fortress to The Bridge on the River Kwai to Le Trou. The previous films were a bit more original and streamlined in their plotting. But hell if you are going to steal, steal from the best. And while fighting for multiplex screens against the summer fizz of primary coloured superkids, the bleak middle act bravely returns to the harrowing animal cruelty that made the first entry, Rise of…, quite so affecting. The suppression of the apes is hardly nacho chomping friendly stuff and it always leaves me conflicted. Why do I care about these animated creatures and their suffering more than their human equivalents? And I mean both within the narrative but also in competition with any other movie released this summer. I care about Caesar, Maurice, Rocket and Blue Eyes more than the countless hairless familiar fictional constructs of my own species. I care that they defeat the soldiers, survive the hardships of their nascent society and are reunited in peaceful harmony. The series is so strong in its characterisation, harsh edges and compelling set pieces that I truly care. For a SFX driven, studio entertainment that is quite the achievement.

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