Not quite my thing
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017): After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
So, let me start out my review by saying I'm not the biggest fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise. I've seen most of the films (pretty much everything minus the sequels to the '68 film) and I really enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but since the 2011 reboot I've been kind of bored by the franchise. Both Dawn and now War feel like setup films, with neither really progressing through the fall of earth, or worse showing it off-screen. I'm sure the defenders of the franchise will say that's not the point, but it doesn't change the fact that that's what I want to see! When you call your film WAR for the PLANET of the Apes, I expect to see a freaking war! When the marketing campaign is "Winner take all" I expect it to be WINNER TAKE ALL. Not just another random base outside of San Francisco. But on the flip-side, I was absolutely blown away by the motion capture of the film. The visuals are gorgeous, and the acting from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson was absolutely incredible.So, at the end of the day.....while I can see why many would absolutely love this film, it just wasn't quite my thing. Anyway, let's dive into it, shall we? Because that would be depressing if that was my full review.
First off, the good. (And in this case, incredible) This film's visuals are some of the best I have ever seen in a film. The calling card is certainly the motion capture. Most of this film is nothing but apes, which means the film had nothing but motion capture performances in it. This is undoubtedly where the film excels, and it's all held together by a truly incredible performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar. We're still decades from someone being nominated for an Oscar for a motion capture performance, but he just might crack my top ten performance this year. It's hard to put into words just how good this performance really is, but everything helped factor into it, from the convincing performance of Serkis behind the motion capture to the incredible CGI being able to showcase so much detail in Caesar's face to convey all the emotions they needed to convey. Oh how far we've come. Not to be outdone by Serkis, though, is the villain of this film, played by Woody Harrelson. He puts in a terrific performance, though one of my faults with this film is how little screen-time he actually receives. But the complaint of "I wish he was in this film more because he's so good" is definitely a good complaint to have.
However, my negative complaints are quite negative for me, unfortunately. As I mentioned, I have a problem with the overall story of this film. Personally, I try to see a film for all its characteristics, not just the story. There's no doubt this film is a technical masterpiece, and it's well-acted, but my GOD did I all but despise this story. The marketing for the film was very deceptive as it heavily implied this overarching war between humans and apes that we didn't actually see. Caesar's story arc was pretty good, as the crew definitely realized that the best part of this franchise is Caesar/Andy Serkis, but I just wanted.... more. Additionally, this is a LONG film at 140 minutes, and is mostly devoid of any humor. I don't mind a film with this serious a tone (it's way better than the forced comic relief in the Transformers or even the Fast and the Furious franchise) but it doesn't change the fact that this is a long film that feels overly long. Sure, Bad Ape has some funny moments, but those moments are few and very far between. I really wish the tone had been just a bit more lighthearted than it actually was.
Ultimately, while this is a marvelous technical masterpiece, and will hopefully FINALLY win this franchise it's first Best Visual Effects Oscar, it still wasn't quite my cup of tea. The marketing just turned me off so much after I watched the final product, and the film is just too long. See it for the visuals, but see it when you're ready to fully devote yourself to a 140 minute film that's more of a serious drama than a summer blockbuster.
The Critique: Although it features gorgeous visuals and terrific performances from Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes is held back from greatness because of a slow pace and overlong story that is too serious in tone.
The Recommendation: If you want to see films at the forefront of what Hollywood can do from a technological perspective, see it with confidence. If you're just a casual fan of this franchise, there might not be much else going on here to keep you drawn in.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
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