A few years ago it was a hot topic that Andy Serkis should have been in contention for an Oscar due to his performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings franchise. At the end of the day he wasn’t an actor in the conventional sense, voice acting doesn’t get attention, and it wasn’t an animated movie. Add those points to the fact that the Academy doesn’t love change, why would they push for something that could endanger the status quo? I mean after all, if you can have anyone play anything thanks to CGI, then at some point actual actors could become irrelevant. Oh wait a second! That is happening more and more as it is. We have seen it in Furious 7 and two roles in Rogue One to name a few. So I definitely think it is time to revisit some of the award categories in Hollywood, granted that has been an issue for quite some time and not just for the mo-cap guru.
With that said, Gollum was the breakthrough that the next generation of special effects needed. Since then, Andy Serkis has made quite the name for himself thanks to motion capture … but his portrayal as Caesar in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise seems to be taken for granted. The first movie was a prequel that almost no one expected to perform the way that it did. When Caeser spoke the first time, I believe everyone got a chill down their spine. The sequel was strong, but ultimately forgettable. It had some great performances, but just came and went. So I know that I was taken back that there was another sequel on the way. So how does it stack up?
I give it 5 “damn dirty apes!” out of 10.
FOR THE UNITIATED
Rise of the Planet of the Apes told the story of how Caeser (Andy Serkis) got his start. How as a test subject for an Alzheimer drug. The drug spread and assisted all apes by increasing their intelligence but infected mankind as a deadly virus. By the end of the movie, the apes ran off into the forest to live in peace.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes told the story of the first bit of infighting among apes and an attempted treaty. Koba was the result of abusive experimentation who held grudges against mankind. When Caeser tried to create a peace with one of the last bands of human resistance, Koba began to work against both parties. While Caeser has secretly been wishing for the two races to live in harmony, by the end he realizes that cannot be a reality.
War for the Planet of the Apes is about the remnants of Caeser’s group of apes defending themselves against humans and looking for a place to live in peace. The main antagonist of this film is The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who employs apes as donkeys more or less, and calls them as such. In an attempt to wipe out the last camp of apes, he ends up killing Caeser’s elder son and wife thinking it was Caeser. After getting a line on a peaceful place for the apes to live put their days, they all strike off before further attacks … except for Caeser, Rocket, Maurice, and Luca who are on a mission to kill The Colonel. Upon their journey, they discover a small girl named Nova (Amiah Miller) who will play a vital role in things to come …
The best parts of the movie are the interactions with Nova. One of the first things we learn is she is functionally mute, which ends up playing a larger role in a somewhat twist (?) later in the movie. Nova’s entry comes at a time when Caeser is still reeling with the death of his wife and son, so he is almost resentful towards her. Maurice takes a liking to her and teaches her some sign langauge. Before too long she bonds with Luca in some of the more touching scenes of the movie. By the end of the movie she of course bonds with Caeser as well. Either way, she steals almost every scene she is in and is one of the standouts. All of that she doesn’t utter a single word in the two plus hours.
My first biggest complaint is the score / music. To say it is generic is an insult to movies with a generic score … it was very out of place. Not only was it out of place, it took me out of the movie. There were moments where the whimsical music was at odds with what was happening at the time.
My second complaint that jumped out was the CGI on the apes. Some of them seemed fine for some of the movie, but there were others that looked like puppets or animatronics from the 90’s. Considering that it wasn’t a noticeable in the prior movies, it is tragic. Especially since one of the new characters was made to be and look different … it was almost like they tried to emulate Dobby from Harry Potter if he was an ape with technology from before those franchises.
Just to briefly touch on the rest of the movie, it was strong. Up until the latter half of the second At that point, anything that happended outside of the view of the camera was put on hold. I guess they were concerned something would be missed. As far as the plot goes, it is almost like no one knew how to end it. Which is sad since it is part of the longest movie of the franchise, but they still couldn’t contain the story they wanted to tell.
The reason I rated it 5 out of 10 is because for every great scene there is a big negative. As fantastic as the first half of the movie is; the second half is the opposite. It is a sad way to end a good trilogy with enormous potential, sending it out with a whimper instead of a bang. I would place the trilogy in their order of release for how they rank. I will say that the movie was a lot better than the trailer for what it is worth. If you liked the series, it is worthwhile to seek out … maybe as a matinee. Otherwise, wait for Redbox or Netflix.
If you want to see a modern movie that relies on CGI and makes you forget it is there then I would have to go with a movie I am fairly certain I already recommended: The Jungle Book (2016). The graphics were near flawless which was a feat since the only real thing was one child. It is another example of a movie or story that has been told several times, except it succeeded where War for the Planet of the Apes failed on many fronts.