Hollywood@Home: War for the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis has plenty on his mind in “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

I marvel at the way everything clicks in “War for the Planet of the Apes,” particularly the acting. The ape performances are brought to life with motion-capture technology and CGI effects. But to have a well-written story realized so vividly by the actors and the special effects artists is a joy. It’s wonderful to know that Hollywood is capable of meticulously melding technology and the performing arts. They’re not just monkeying around.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a direct sequel to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and very loosely based on 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” Like Moses from the Bible, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is attempting to lead his “people” to the promised land, an oasis that lies beyond a vast desert. But, before they can begin their journey, a rogue band of U.S. Army soldiers attacks the group, killing some of Caesar’s close family members. Caesar must now restrain his own desires for revenge and try to do what’s best for his colony.

Caesar fears he’s becoming more and more like the human-hating Koba from the earlier film. Koba died after starting a war with the humans, a war that Caesar wants to end simply by walking away. Plans change.

“Sequelitis” is like the simian flu that’s killing off the human population. It’s easy to catch. But, director-co-writer Matt Reeves and writer Mark Bomback apparently got their flu shots. The screenplay is delightfully complex and it flows. The somber mood of this war drama is masterfully softened by a new character called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn). It’s hard to take your eyes off this amusing chimp who not only brings a humorous touch, but is central to the plot as well.

I felt the producers may have added some excess baggage with the casting of Woody Harrelson as The Colonel, but the stoner thespian acquits himself nicely in a serious role. No harm done.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is certainly good enough to win some tech awards at year’s end. But, I feel the story, direction and performances are also worth consideration at the very least. Even those not familiar with the Apes movies that have been around since the late 1960’s can appreciate the uniqueness and quality of the final film in the trilogy reboot. Grade: A

Caesar (Andy Serkis) tries to dig himself out of a hole caused by his desire for revenge in “War for the Planet of the Apes.”