The Apes Come Full Circle In War
So much has already been written by vastly more learned folks than I, but I wanted to sound off briefly on the film for regular readers.
Yes: it’s as good as all critics have proclaimed it to be.
In fact, I’d argue it’s possibly a bit better.
Narratively, it’s a huge leap forward for the Apes franchise, which makes it sad to also remind readers that – at present – it’s said to be the end of a trilogy. (Like everyone else fascinated with all things SciFi, let’s keep our fingers crossed that Matt Reeves and 20th Century Fox aren’t making this the last installment for the long-running property.) Unlike Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), War is truly the apes’ story this go’round: they’re carrying the full weight of the story here and not paired up with some humans to tell this chapter. This film focuses on Caesar’s plight to overcome a personal tragedy without sacrificing his personal ‘humanity’ or losing his soul to a war which looks to have no end in sight.
My chief complaint over the past decade or two about the increasing inclusion of CGI in films has been that the computer graphics aren’t just good enough to pair alongside real actors without risking the loss of illusion: all one need do is check out the animated Grand Moff Tarkin or Princess Leia in Lucasfilm’s recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) to understand from where I’m coming. For my tastes, Tarkin wasn’t real enough (and Leia was thankfully limited to only a few seconds of screen time) to carry as much of the feature as the creation was given, and that led to some disappointment with the presented storyline. (Don’t get me wrong: I was gaga for the flick, but – as a viewer – there are some things I just can’t yet ‘get around’ for art’s sake.)
The Planet of the Apes franchise, by comparison, has done a masterful job (much in the same way The Lord of the Rings trilogy did with Gollum) by sticking with creating as photographically authentic-looking apes as they could, and it worked. Caesar and his followers have seamlessly come to life on the silver screen, and those efforts elevated the stories as opposed to suspending the big budget magic attempted by other films. For that reason alone, War is worth seeing; the fact that the story is (mostly) epic ends up being a welcome side benefit.
And it is epic, perhaps even downright operatic at times.
The entire Apes story has always been about tragedy – the fall of man, the rise of apes, and the conflict trapped between those seminal events. War shows us a world wherein even dark moment of our deepest failure can still offer a glimmer of hope, though that optimism ends up being reserved for the animals more than for us. The film shows us how thin the line between sanity and insanity truly is, and it reminds us that perhaps we’re all just one step away from being pushed into the darkness, even if that gloom is of our own creation.
While Caesar’s story might be over, I hope there’s more to come. Whatever shape it may take, it’s still a world worth visiting.