Charlton Heston’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968), almost a half century ago, set the tone for ‘War’ – the eighth overall and the third in the trilogy – a distinctly refreshing and inspired film, helmed by Matt Reeves. Following the earlier two – ‘Rise’ (2011) and ‘Dawn’ (2014) – the apes having suffered huge losses at the hands of humans – Caesar (evocatively voiced by Andy Serkis) regroups his remaining simians for a last-ditch battle against the humans. Reeves infuses this second sequel with as many fleshed-out characters as comedic elements, at the same time paying tribute to the 1979 ‘Apocalypse Now’, with frequent depictions of ‘Ape-ocalypse Now’ in a cave.
When Caesar’s wife and eldest son are killed by a rampaging Colonel (a none-too-impressive Woody Harrelson), leader of the human faction Alpha-Omega, he hunts out the latter in a bid to avenge their deaths and seek deliverance for his species. And when Caesar’s apes kill a human and adopt his mute daughter Nova (Amiah Miller), the film is instilled with some tenderness. Bad Ape (lovingly and wittily voiced by Steve Zahn) is the perfect foil to Caesar.
Come to think, one wonders whether the titles of the two prequels ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’ shouldn’t have been reversed. Writers Reeves and Mark Bomback have invested the simian v/s human conflict with some intent storytelling, aided by vivid cinematography by Michael Seresin and a pleasing score by Michael Giacchino. But the standout feature of this film is the VFX created by Weta Digital – when Ceasar looks into the camera, you’ll realize what I mean.
A film Darwin would surely have appreciated.