“The soldiers will come after me,” says ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). “That gives all of you a good chance to get out of the woods.” “You’re going alone after them?” asks Maurice (Karin Konoval), Caesar’s orangutan confidante. “Not them,” says Caesar, “him.” “Him” is the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), sociopathic leader whose human troops vow to kill all rebellious apes and who, himself, killed Caesar’s wife and grown son. That’s the setup for the compelling third chapter of “Planet of the Apes.”
Can Caesar convince the Colonel that survival of both apes and humans is possible? Why have some humans lost the power of speech? Will any species, ape or human, inherit the planet? For answers and a really good story, see “War for the Planet of the Apes.”
Andy Serkis gives a powerful, Academy Award-worthy, motion-capture performance as highly intelligent Caesar, chimp leader of the apes. When he speaks — slowly, distinctly and thoughtfully — his eyes, expression and body language communicate deep sorrow, compassion, resolve and — for the Colonel — hatred. “Maurice was right,” Caesar says, “I am like Koba, he could not escape his hate.” (Koba was the hate-crazed ape who began the war.) Nor can Woody Harrelson, convincing as the Colonel, escape his own hate. “This is a holy war,” he tells his troops. “If we lose, it will be a planet of apes.” Harrelson’s obsessively mad Colonel channels Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” (1979), as a brief shot of graffiti in Harrelson’s compound confirms.
Others in the cast include, in motion-capture performances, as Caesar’s companions and family, Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Michael Adamthwaite (Luca), and the ghost of Koba (Toby Kebbell). Ty Olsson is ape, Red Donkey, who deserts to join the humans. Amiah Miller is speechless girl, Nova, whom Maurice protects. Best new character is Steve Zahn as Bad Ape.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is another of several excellent summer blockbusters (think “Wonder Woman” and “Spider-Man”). Like them, “Planet” offers pleasures for adults as well as younger audiences. Kudos to director/co-writer Matt Reeves who, with Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, give us characters (apes) who care about each other and about whom we care. Add a compelling story that leads to an intelligent and emotionally satisfying conclusion, a plethora of visual pleasures from cinematographer Michael Seresin, and the best and least intrusive score I’ve heard in a long time by composer Michael Giacchino and you’ve got a great movie.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, themes, and disturbing images, “Planet” runs 140 minutes. For mature audiences, it’s a good one.
“War — Planet of the Apes” —
Smart, dark and compelling;
Not just a sequel, it’s