The third and final (??? you never know) chapter in this rebooted version of the 1968 science fiction slavery/racism metaphor presents a satisfying conclusion to everything presented in 'Rise' and 'Dawn' (of the Planet of the Apes...duh!) Caesar is once again (rightfully) the focus and that is one of the film's strengths. One of the best things about 'Rise' was that it focused on Caesar and the other ape characters as much, if not more as it did on James Franco. In a world where Transformers movies focus on Shia or Marky Mark and Ninja Turtle movies focus on everybody but the turtles, it's nice to see the title characters front and center. Especially as a testament to how far the technology has come and how it can blend with an actor's natural ability to create realistic computer generated fantasy characters that you can feel for. Yes, Andy Serkis is once again great as Caesar, as is his supporting cast of guys who probably felt silly in those motion capture suits when they were filming this, but who turned out great performances.
It's been two years after 'Dawn' and the apes are on the run from a bunch of military guys that hold them responsible for the chaos that Koba caused at the end of the last film. Caesar is trying to get his tribe of intelligent apes, including his wife and son, away from this group at all costs. He tells some of the soldiers that come for him that he didn't start this war and wisely doesn't want to escalate the conflict. But when tragedy strikes, things change and Caesar has to struggle with his own anger, not wanting to become like Koba, who has become like the devil on his shoulder. And as the story unfolds, we learn about an ape concentration camp, a mute girl whose father was killed by the Colonel who has been chasing the apes and a (very funny) talking ape who is not part of Caesar's group of lab escapees. It all comes together in the end. Interesting revelations will keep you engaged, as one of this film's strengths is that it relies on drama between these well-CGI'd fantasy characters and not just action. There is some action at the beginning, but the 'war' in the title really shows up at the end and the combatants might not be who you expect.
The only complaint I have is with one lull towards the middle of the film, where Caesar is repeatedly beaten. A lot of that "Passion of the Apes" stuff could have been cut out to improve the pacing. But once that part is over, the movie picks up and there are surprises as to why the Colonel hates the apes so much (that I won't spoil here). There are many nods to the original series (the mute girl's name is Nova) and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I would have like to see Taylor's ship splash down at the end of the film and a CGI Charlton Heston emerge like they did with Princess Leia in 'Rogue One', but that was just me.
I give this movie 3.5 apes out of 5. I am very much looking forward to director Matt Reeves' "na na na na na na na" next film!
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