Bleak themes, gorgeous visuals & a huge beating heart make for a uniquely powerful cinematic experience.
“I did not start this war. But I will finish it.”
An emotionally taxing tale of revenge and despair. A fiery western homage transposed into the blistering cold of an unforgiving snowy tundra. Nothing about War For The Planet Of The Apes screams comfort – it is relentlessly bleak in nature. To say ‘they don’t make blockbusters like this anymore’ would be a lie, as I’m not sure they ever did. The qualities that make this series appear so inaccessible to mainstream cinemagoers are somehow its greatest assets. No other $150M+ franchise instalment rejects spoken English dialogue in favour of sign language and visual storytelling. Few would dare take their characters to the depths of the darkness both hero and villain experience here. And none boast such a grim and chaotic depiction of violence under the guise of a PG-13/12A rating. Yet audiences still come – not to be entertained, but awed.
Serkis is on phenomenal form. Hardly surprising at this point, but it’d be downright criminal to ignore the incredible VFX and motion capture work that goes into his titanic performances. In tearing Caesar down to his bare bones, Reeves & Bomback ignite a fire in their protagonist, setting him on a path that elevates his character to mythic status. The adversity he faces is intensified by the events in his enemy’s harrowing PoW camp – evoking unsettling historical imagery to powerful effect. Harrelson establishes the Colonel as a force to be reckoned with – equal parts loathsome and terrifying. The stakes have never been higher, the outlook has never looked so bleak.
Thank the movie gods then, for the slithers of warmth and hope that flicker and shine so brightly through the otherwise impenetrable darkness. A young girl who finds family in what she’s been taught to fear. A hopeless lost soul, whose sweet-hearted incompetence should leave you shaking with laughter. These moments of levity are essential to the story, restoring its humanity and offering some much-welcomed respite. They don’t last long, but that only makes you cherish them all the more.
Using this space to complain about how shitty TFL were the day I went to see this. Was stuck on the district line tube in the same spot for 30 mins, and arrived just in time to catch the end of Apes‘ incredible opening skirmish. Fuck you TFL.