“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Susan Granger’s review of “War for the Planet of the Apes” (20th Century-Fox)

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Following “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014), this third installment begins two years after the fight for existence between enhanced primates and humans.

There’s a brutal attack by troops under the command of a renegade Colonel (Woody Harrelson), causing peace-loving Caesar (Andy Serkis) to realize that his tribe must leave their forest habitat and find a new homeland – like a Biblical epic.

Although he organizes their journey, bereft Caesar is determined to find the Colonel and wreak vengeance, recognizing – to his chagrin – that he’s becoming more and more like human-hating Koba (Toby Kebbell) and his thuggish followers who serve as “donkeys” for the humans, acting as trackers.

Caesar is accompanied the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), who serves as his moral compass, and two cohorts. Riding horseback across the snowy mountains, they pick up a mute, orphaned girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), whose family was killed by the Colonel’s troops, and a precocious zoo chimpanzee, self-named “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn), obviously mimicking his human captors.

When they finally track down the shaven-headed Colonel in his fortified compound, his mysteriously fanatic demeanor evokes memories of Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now.”

Caesar then discovers that the ruthless Colonel is forcing the apes he’s captured to build a mysterious wall, a concept which is connected to a rapidly spreading virus that robs humans of their ability to speak.

Derived from Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel and based on characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, it’s scripted as a character-driven action adventure by Mark Bombeck and director Matt Reeves, deftly augmented by Michael Seresin’s evocative cinematography and Michael Giacchino’s stirring score.

What’s most amazing are the detailed, intricate, motion-capture visual effects, epitomized by Andy Serkin’s empathetic performance. Motion capture involves an actor wearing special censors as his movements are captured by surrounding cameras. The effects artists then create a digital character from the 3D computerized images of the actor’s actions and facial expressions.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is an awesome, elegiac 8, as humanity is reflected back through the apes. A “must see” for lovers of this franchise.

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