Review: 'War for the Planet of the Apes' wastes a good villain

Marcus Goh


“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 140 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a science-fiction action adventure film that’s the third instalment in the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” movie franchise.

The film takes place two years after “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, and sees ape leader Caesar at war with the humans of the planet, even while he deals with his own internal struggles.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is directed and written by Matt Reeves, with additional writing credits for Mark Bomback. It stars Andy Serkis (Caesar), Steven Zahn (Bad Ape), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Ty Ollson (Red), and Woody Harrelson (The Colonel). It is rated PG.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is the film that hopefully concludes the “Planet of the Apes” film franchise. There’s no doubting the production quality and standard of the performances, but it’s the abysmally pretentious approach, the sickeningly blatant attempts to be impactful, and the way it takes itself so seriously that makes this so difficult to enjoy. You should catch it for the sake of the brand name, but don’t expect it to be a sincere story.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)


Strong themes about humanity and the lack of it thereof

Caesar’s humanity is perhaps the strongest aspect of the film, with the CGI imparting emotions so authentically that we can’t help but empathise with his situation. This is contrasted with the Colonel’s ironic but on-the-nose pragmatism when it comes to his race. Similarly, the apes display more feeing than the humans, and even the unnamed apes are given equally detailed reactions when it comes to being roused by Caesar – while the humans are, of course, icons of barbarism.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)


Overdramatic operatic score

It’s perfectly understandable to want to augment the impact of certain scenes with appropriate music. However, just adding drums and slow, loud music does not automatically turn a humdrum scene into an epic one. The film employs the music as a crutch far too often, in a failed attempt to elevate mediocre scenes, such as pairing it with a poop joke to create an emotionally confusing scene. The quality of the score is excellent, but whether it is appropriately used is highly questionable.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Bad Ape stops being funny very quickly

Bad Ape feels like a breath of fresh air when he first appears, being another ape who can communicate in spoken English with Caesar. It’s obvious he’s the comic relief, and brings some light-heartedness to what is otherwise an intense film. But his supposedly hilarious antics soon turn into repetitive attempts to add life to scenes, and you can’t help but wonder at his competence. His inclusion sounds like a good idea on paper but ends up being one of the film’s most grating elements.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

The Colonel is an absolute disappointment

The villain of the film is, of course, the most inhuman of the humans. The enmity between him and Caesar is developed through incredibly personal stakes, and it’s clear that the inevitable clash between the two will be epic. He is built up as the indomitable foe that the protagonist must overcome in order to triumph, and the perfect example of a human without humanity.

The film completely drops the ball on him. He’s an utter waste of a character.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Pointless internal conflict for Caesar

Caesar’s characterisation is clear from the get go, since he’s representative of what it means to be human. Then a sudden, random complication appears and inner conflict is foisted on him in the most heavy-handed way possible. This is not even a consistent plot beat – it’s just a token attempt to create tension in a film that already, organically, has it. It’s not a serious concern since Caesar clearly has other, bigger issues to worry about. What we have, then, is a pointless sidetrack from the story that adds nothing but running time to a film that could do without it.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Manipulatively emotional scenes

The film also abuses backstory in an attempt to generate emotional resonance. It’s a startling coincidence that so many characters share the exact same story of loss that’s revealed in the exact same fashion, to the point where it becomes blatantly obvious that the film is trying to milk as much sympathy as it can from its audience. Throw in some exaggerated music and slow cuts, and it becomes an eye-rolling, overt tugging of the heart strings. The problem is that this is emotion that’s not rightfully earned from the plot. It’s manufactured through cheap tricks.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

“War for the Planet of the Apes” mercifully brings this trilogy to a close by wrapping up long-running plot lines and giving closure to the characters. However, it’s just a rehash of the same themes and the same characterisation, and brings nothing new to the franchise.

Should you watch this if it’s free? Okay.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? If you’re a “Planet of the Apes” fan

Score: 2.1/5

“War for the Planet of the Apes” opens in cinemas:
– 13 July, 2017 (Singapore)
– 12 July, 2017 (Malaysia)
– 12 July, 2017 (Philippines)

“War for the Planet of the Apes” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Police & Thief”, “Incredible Tales”, “Crimewatch”, and “Point of Entry”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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