Ever since 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes rebooted the “Apes” franchise, I have been fully invested in the main character Caesar’s journey.  Rise was a surprisingly fresh and imaginative new starting point, however when director Matt Reeves took over for 2014’s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, things were elevated to a whole other level. An incredible follow up that made Caesar and his ever expanding family of highly evolved apes the true focus as they continue to find their place in the new world they had found themselves in. Dawn was not only my favorite film that year, but to this day it stands as one of my favorite films of all time. Full of stunning visual FX  that are matched only by it’s deep emotional core, it expertly sets the stage for another thrilling chapter that finally continues in War For The Planet Of The Apes. 

War For The Planet Of The Apes had a great deal to live up to and right off the bat I am happy to say that it absolutely does. It felt great to revisit these characters and see how they have progressed since we last saw them.  While it is difficult to really get into the story without spoiling what makes the film so compelling, War finds us smack dab in the middle of the the Ape/Human War that was teased at the end of the previous film. I will say that this is a dark film as a war film should be. I will say though that the title while still fitting could be a tad misleading, I feel as if the previous film had much more “war” to it than this one, so if you are going into this one expecting another all out firefight between apes and humans similar to the scene of Koba leading the apes into San Fran to wage war on the humans, you may be disappointed. That is not to say that there isn’t plenty of action, but for me it just means Reeves and company were smart enough to realize they didn’t want to tread the same ground as the last film. I would say there is certainly a war here on various levels but one I found most prominent  is one you might not expect and that is the war for ones own soul.

What has made this series so special from the get go is the personality and heart found in the apes and their story. Once again lead by Andy Serkis’ brilliant performance as Caesar, the Apes are a wonder to watch. They combination of actors and cgi is more remarkable than ever. Never once during the entire film did I even think of Caesar, Maurice, Rocket and the rest of the Apes as anything but real characters who are actually there.  They are fully fleshed out characters who give performances as impressive and heartfelt as any actor. It truly is a sight to behold and one that has yet to cease to amaze me. I said it when Dawn came out and I will reiterate it here, Serkis deserves an Oscar nod for his work in these films. He is literally playing an APE and pulls it off flawlessly. You mean to tell me that is not more impressive and does not show as much (if not more) talent than any of the recent Oscar winners? I know the Academy frowns upon genre pictures, and it is one of the reasons I do not take them seriously, but still, it is an incredible performance by all the Ape performers. I expect all audiences will also fall in love with one of the newer apes we meet in the film, but the less you know about him the better.

On the human side of things, the two most important characters who stand on their own next to their primate costars, are Nova played by young Amiah Miller and of course The Colonel emobodied by none other than Woody Harrelson. Amiah is wonderful as the young girl Caesar and crew encounter on their journey who becomes an integral part of their story. While Harrelson’s villainous Colonel thinks he is doing the right thing even if it is by any nefarious means necessary. Harrelson seems to relish this role and breathes life into what could have come off as a one note villain if portrayed by a lesser actor.

I really do not want to get too in depth into the story and plot, because for me part of the fun was not knowing where this thing was going as I skipped most of the trailers and tv spots to go in fresh as possible. It paid off as I was taken by surprise by many plot points I did not expect. Matt Reeves direction is once again superb as he balances character, story and spectacle with precision and crafts one of the best films you will see this year. If you enjoyed the previous two films you will without a doubt love this newest installment to the saga of Caesar and his family. It has everything you could want in any kind of film and then some. It is just that well made and I cannot recommend it enough. Just know that you will certainly run the gamut of emotions once you are finished experiencing this one. I know I certainly did and that in itself is the best endorsement I can give to this film and franchise that is quite possibly the finest and most consistent trilogy of sci fi films ever made. Go see it as it is truly deserving of your time.