War for the Planet of the Apes is the third (and presumably final) installment in the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise that started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. While it shares similarities with the original franchise movie, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, it is not a remake, but continues the story from second movie in this latest series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This was a franchise reboot I initially went into with very low expectations. We all know how these reboots go: potentially loaded with big name actors, directors, and fantastic CGI that simply wasn’t possible when the original movies were released, the rebooted movies still ultimately fail. It was with great relief and a certain amount of surprise, therefore, that I found the first movie in the rebooted series a wonderful experience. Thoughtful, well acted, and a story that flowed very well and just made sense in terms of setting the stage for our world to find apes as its new rulers. Ditto for the second movie, which was another hit. In this case, though, the third time is not the charm. War for the Planet of the Apes was, unfortunately, a serious letdown in many ways.
Basically we have Caesar continuing to lead his people as they struggle to remain hidden from the humans who, following events in the second movie, want nothing more than to wipe out all apekind before they truly do rule the planet. Along comes Caesar’s grown son, who has just returned from an expedition to find a more secluded, safe home for their people. Plans are made to leave for this new place soon, but, in the meanwhile, the humans, led by “the Colonel,” launch a surprise attack that takes something very dear from Caesar. The movie up to that point is fairly good. Reminiscent of the previous movie, in fact. But things start to go off the rails a bit thereafter. Caesar sends his people off to this new home, but, wanting revenge on the Colonel, he takes a different path, one which will ultimately (and not surprisingly) lead to a final confrontation between apes and humans.
The idea itself still doesn’t sound too bad, but the movie really loses direction fast. There are some odd issues with the timing of when certain people meet again and a character thrown in simply for comedic value, almost as if the writers ran out of ideas so needed someone to act as a filler here and there. The humans turn many of the apes into slaves and set them to building a wall, which in itself also makes no sense because it’s painfully obvious the wall isn’t going to make any difference. There is a final escape sequence reminiscent of The Great Escape and a climactic battle where the apes can do nothing more than look on (another wasted opportunity).
One of the interesting things about the movie is the tie-in’s to the first movie in the original franchise, which chronologically takes place some years after this one but not so long some of the characters are not in both. Nova, the mute woman who becomes a sort of companion to Charlton Heston’s character, is a young girl in this movie. Also, Cornelius, son of Caesar, is a baby chimpanzee. The movie also explains why humans lose the ability to speak, but I’ll save that for you to find about yourself.
While I do think War for the Planet of the Apes is somewhat worthwhile for fans of the franchise, it’s not a must-see by any means and I don’t think you’re really missing anything by skipping it. I’m giving it two rockets.