Up front we need to say before this week the last and only Planet of the Apes movie we had seen was the 2001 Post-Funky Bunch Mark Wahlberg film which was intended to reboot the series. So when we knew we were doing a review of the latest Planet of the Apes film we had to do a little homework.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the third film of the new installment for the franchise which has roots going back as far as 1963 for the novel and 1968 for the first film of with 4 sequels following until 1973. It wasn’t really until the 2001 Tim Burton film that took the series from cult status back to the masses. The latest film is a continuation of the series started in 2011 as a reboot (or possibly prequel) attempt.
SPOILERS AHEAD – If you haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes you probably want to stop here. Normally we might say it isn’t necessary but in the case of this series you really do need it.
For those reading on, the story goes like this in Rise of the Planet of the Apes a Alzheimer researcher (James Franco) develops a potential cure that creates a smart ape, Caesar. During the course of events Caesar learns both the good and bad of humanity which leads to the ‘cure’ getting out infecting apes, making them smarter, and infecting humans, making them dead’er.
In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes we skip ahead 15 years to most of humanity being wiped out and Humans and Apes looking to coexist. This does not go according to plan with an Ape named Koba who had been mistreated by humans, framing them for an attempt on Caesar’s life which then starts a war. During this conflict humans call in reinforcements which is where War for the Planet of the Apes continues.
Off the bat if you have never seen the series like us, it is worth sitting down and watching the last two films before you see this one. More importantly you almost have to see the previous two. With the story continuing to follow Caesar as our main protagonist but him as he has been shaped across the previous movies.
This does pose a problem because it is hard to tell you more about this movie without that background which is probably the biggest issue with this film. While this is a great film and a superb continuation of the story of Caesar it is just that, the continuation. Trying to jump on at this point would be like picking up a book your friends recommended and starting 200 pages in.
For those of you who HAVE seen the previous films this film does have elements that it brings to the table to make it stand out from the last film making it a worthy continuation. This is even more so impressive given that it shares the same director and writing team as the last successful film, so it would of been easy to rubber stamp something like the previous. The way the film is approached early on and pushing for evolving where the Apes place in the world made this feel like we were getting something new and different from the last.
While not the most special effect driven movie for explosions and action sequences (though there is still a bit of that) at points during this film you may forget that most of the apes on screen are driven by motion capture. Apes are clearly the heroes of this story and in the war between humans and apes you will probably find yourself on the Ape side. The interaction and characters here is rich and deep, and in some places better acting then some humans in other films.
In short, should you watch this? Yes. Is it a massive action movie? No. Did you see the previous two Planet of the Apes movies? No? Might want to go watch those first. But if you have seen the previous films you probably don’t need us to tell you that you should go see this one.
War for the Planet of the Apes is in Cinemas across Australia from today