No matter what you say, eventually you’d replace us. That’s the law of nature. What would you have done?
It would be tempting to say that Reeves has finished this new Planet of the Apes trilogy with a bang, but that would misrepresent the film, which is actually pretty quiet and almost entirely somber. Let’s just do away with the clever phrases and state things plainly: this is the best of the trilogy and essentially a perfect ending. Where things are headed next for the franchise is hard to guess, but whatever happens we have one of the most finely crafted and unlikely trilogies of modern times in this new Planet of the Apes trilogy. This trilogy has always gone in surprising directions. I argued that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a real accomplishment, a genuinely anti-violence summer blockbuster. This movie is also surprising. The title hints at epic battles and sweeping conflict and then dials the focus down to a simple story of revenge. You could call it an adventure film; much of it is taken up with a journey through wilderness and the quest of a hero to, more than anything else, refuse to become the villain. But this is too somber really for even that designation. It’s almost a revisionist western of a type, morally complicated, focused on deconstructing even its heroic characters. It’s a brilliant film, full stop, with great scripting and a surprising focus on characterization down to even pretty small roles. Serkis delivers, in my opinion, his best performance of the trilogy. It’s as morally complicated as Caesar has gotten and Serkis is up to the task. Word has to be given to the special effects team, of course, who get their fair share in terms of the deeply evocative performances from the ape characters, most especially Caesar. With each film, the rendering of these characters in their environments has gotten only better which is really something when you consider how breathtaking it was right from the jump. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to believe that these are computer generated creatures; it seems absurd, but you’ll find yourself thinking that, God knows how, they MUST have somehow gotten real apes to do all this stunt work. A word for Harrelson. I’m always kind of afraid when he’s going to be in a movie because I’m afraid he’ll fall back into his schtick and be tiresome; but he almost always proves me wrong and he absolutely does here. He’s wonderful as the villainous Colonel; he dials back almost all of his tics in order to play the Colonel very minimally which works very well to make him more frightening than if he’d just gone full throttle. Reeves’ direction is great as always; the film has a dark look to fit the dark tone. I’m fairly certain that you only see the sun for about five minutes out of this entire two-hours-plus film; the starkness of the grey skies and the white snow and the cold grey metal of the military camp all add up to create a real atmosphere of wintery chill. Ultimately, the Planet of the Apes pulls of another miracle. Right from Rise, this franchise has been exceeding expectations and surprising me in all sorts of ways. With this dark, somber, deeply emotional conclusion, they’ve done it again. And this time I basically went in expecting a masterpiece on the level of Rise or Dawn. But they got me again; this one is even better. 4 stars.
tl;dr – a perfect ending to a brilliant film trilogy, this somber, morally complicated story of revenge is well-written, beautifully performed and a true masterpiece. 4 stars.