The Apes of Wrath: War of the Planet of the Apes

war.jpg2017.69: War of the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Here is that rare thing- a blockbuster trilogy that embodies high-quality, intelligent film-making with each film getting better than the last. Part of me pines for a fourth entry or even, perhaps, a second trilogy that could  revisit and follow the events of the Charlton Heston original film, but part of me thinks that would be tempting fate in this world of franchises of ever-decreasing quality. Better perhaps for the studio to quit while it’s ahead. This is a great movie; I’d hate to see it spoiled by lesser entries.

The revelation of this film, particularly considering its title, is just how intimate it is. If this is a war film, it’s one more akin to Malick’s The Thin Red Line than, say, Rambo. It’s a surprisingly quiet, internal film- a film of quiet rage, and sacrifice.  There’s something of a Western about it, too- perhaps even Eastwood’s Unforgiven- its a much darker blockbuster than I expected.

Not that the film is perfect- it falters in a few respects. There are a few moments in the script where it stumbles markedly- a scene in which one of the apes gifts the human girl a flower from a tree too easily prefigures that same apes death with the subtlety of being slapped in the face with a wet kipper. Its an awkward moment of manipulation. that does so much of the rest of the film a disservice, but on the whole the film works splendidly, and for the most part you even forget that 90% of what you are watching probably resides in a computer somewhere.

Ah, yes, the effects. While I always seem to be moaning about CGI spoiling the quality of movies, as they often seem to be used to replace quality drama and screenwriting through spectacle, rather than actually support said drama/screenwriting, I have to admit that used properly CGI can really move film-making to some other level of cinema, offering realities that could not exist elsewhere. These recent Apes films have been pretty astonishing, frankly, on a technical level, bringing to the screen something utterly impossible just years ago, but this third film is really something else entirely- powerful, quality film-making featuring characters that simply don’t exist but which somehow out-act most ‘real’ actors (maybe it’s finally time for a Virtual Actor award from the Academy).  It’s not lost on me that this same year I marvelled at the creation of a gigantic ape in Kong: Skull Island. Regardless of the quality of the drama, there were moments watching this film, as with the prior films, that I just gasped at the marvel of how ‘real’ the fakery seems to be. It’s a modern sorcery and I have to wonder where it will all end.

I feel I must also mention a simply wonderful music score from Michael Giacchino- in a climate in which most blockbuster soundtracks just sound like background noise, it’s lovely to report that this is a genuinely moving score of orchestral  music with strong themes and intelligence. A definite throwback to the glory years of the 1970s with Williams, Goldsmith and Barry in their prime (the score does in particular carry nods to the music of John Barry).

On the whole, one of the films of the year for me.

 

4 thoughts on “The Apes of Wrath: War of the Planet of the Apes

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    Yeah, I couldn’t agree more about the effects. I was watching this in the cinema marvelling at the beauty of some of the shots, and then doing a double take and marvelling again at the fact that they weren’t ‘real’ or in-camera.
    It’s quite astonishing.

  2. Maybe the Oscars will finally recognise this series for its effects work — it’s deserved it before and lost out, but as this might be the last one… I believe Fox are going to give it a big push centred around Serkis for Actor, which they’re never going to give him, so maybe it’ll get effects as a sop.

    Anyway, yes, a great but not perfect film. Which perhaps goes for the whole trilogy, but it’s still nonetheless fantastic as a whole. I still can’t decide which I think is the best of the three, which certainly isn’t the case with most trilogies.

    1. But I wanted BR2049 to win some awards, and it looks like its only hope are the technical awards.

      That said, I saw that Roger Deakins was overlooked in the cinematography award at the LA Critics Association in favour of a film not even released yet (!) – the award went to ‘The Shape of Water’. I can hardly believe it. BR2049 cannot catch a break..

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