Despite its complicated title, War for the Planet of the Apes (War as it will henceforth be called here) is a simple movie, or at least starts that way. It’s a basic revenge film with apes.
After a particularly devastating attack from The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Caesar (Andy Serkis) goes after him, begrudgingly bringing some friends and meeting some new ones along the way. Which makes it sound a little happier than it is. And while there are some light moments, it is a really dark and sometimes depressing movie. It shares a lot in common with Logan. There’s even a little girl analog to Laura.
War takes a good long look at humanity through the lens of our distant cousins. Caesar tries to be a good and just leader, while trying to not fall into the same things that divide humanity, but time and time again apes that he trusts, betray him, and eventually even he falls into pettiness. In his dreams, he’s haunted by his former friend turned enemy, Koba, who tempts him to be like the humans. And the Colonel keeps pushing him by killing apes out of spite, enslaving them, and beating them just because he can. By the end of the film, Caesar finally learns what it’s means to be human.
This movie is also filled to the brim with references and symbolism, the biggest being slavery, but not because the association of black people and apes, but because the Colonel literally enslaves and whips the apes. He makes them build a wall and fight against other humans that want to take him down, which brings me to another reference, the movie Apocalypse Now. The Colonel is a crazy person, someone who’s taken a bunch of men with him to go fight some apes in the woods and refuses to come back, instead opting for an all out war against his former leaders. Seeing some parallels here?
Now luckily this movie does have some levity in it, otherwise you would just hate the world and everything in it after you got out of the theater. Caesar and his group meet a young girl whom they nickname Nova, after the classic Chevy Nova nameplate she finds. She also can’t speak, which leads to some funny but also touching moments with the apes. She also plays well off of Caesar, who is one of the only apes able to fully speak. He hates having her around, almost reminding him of what apes used to be, and yet is human, the beings who constantly try to kill him. We also are introduced to Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who wasn’t a part of Caesar’s revolution from Rise, and yet is also just as intelligent as the rest of them. After the virus spread to the rest of the world, Bad Ape studied humans and was able to learn english, however the humans killed the rest of his group and he fled into the mountains, where he became a crazy hermit.
While this is definitely the end of the trilogy, it doesn’t do the thing that all the other prequels do. Movies like The Hobbit and Star Wars Episode 3 try to connect every last thread at the end to the beginning of the originals. War, however, is plenty satisfying without having to fall back on that. It’s technically an open ending, and you could still do more with the franchise, but it would feel wrong. Caesar’s story is done, and he did it on his own terms, without having to travel to New York and cut down the statue of liberty, just so we could have a glory shot of the torch sticking out of the sand. You damn, dirty film execs. So go see this film, I give it four thumbs up, because apes have foot thumbs.