I walked into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting some all out ape vs. human action that would put the last two films to shame.  I did not get what I want but the film that I saw was plenty interesting but a lot slower than I was anticipating.

After Tim Burton’s awful 2001 reboot it took ten more years until we got to Rupert Wyatt’s amazing 2011 reboot.  The sequel, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, really brought the human vs. ape element to a whole new level thanks to some intrigue and a power struggle between the apes.  Matt Reeves really did an amazing job directing that film and I was glad to see him back for War.  Unfortunately this movie falls short of his first ape film.

As a kid growing up I used to love watching Godzilla and kung-fu films on channel 9 and channel 11.  The one thing that always cracked me up was the awful dubbing they had on these films.  As I got older I often wondered why they dubbed these films.  Did they think Americans couldn’t read subtitles?  Did they think the dubbing made the film “better”?  I still can’t figure it out.

The reason I mention all of this is because basically the first 45 minutes or so of this film is mostly subtitles.  Most of the apes can’t speak like Caesar (Andy Serkis) can.  They communicate using a hybrid ape language and sign language together.  I’m not quite sure why they all can’t speak like Caesar (some can but some cannot) but I thought it very interesting and very ballsy to have an American summer tentpole film where you are ready subtitles for a lot of the film.  Even after that initial 45 minutes there is still plenty of subtitles.  So to the screenwriters and people at 20th Century Fox I applaud you.

When I hear the word “War” in the title I was really expecting the final all-out brawl between humans and apes.  But this film really doesn’t have a war.  There is a massive action sequence very late in the film but it really won’t be what you’ll expect.

Most of the film has the apes enslaved by the humans.  The apes were trying to get away from the humans but there wasn’t much luck in that for them.  The apes basically become slaves in the film and really harkens back to our own barbaric days.

So the movie with war in the title is a very slow burn drama featuring lots of subtitles and the imprisoned apes trying to figure out how to escape.  The plot centers around a colonel (Woody Harrelson) who is out hunting for Caesar and the apes.  Why?  Because he wants them dead.  Why?  Because he’s afraid they’ll take over the world.  When a tragedy befalls Caesar, the ape send his apes off to their new home while Caesar, along with a small contingent of apes, goes off to seek revenge against the military leader.  When the apes are captured and brought to the human base we see just how well armed and powerful these humans really are.  Do they apes really have a chance?  That’s the big question that Caesar faces.  And if he does kill the colonel does he really “succeed”?

The movie sort of brings us up to the beginning of the original sixties Planet of the Apes.  This film has Cornelius as well as Nova but certainly not in the way that you would think.  I did dig the direct correlation between the films.

Performance-wise I thought Woody Harrelson as Colonel McCullough was pretty decent even though his character felt a bit forced.  Really the acting kudos should go to Andy Serkis – his performance was extraordinary.  I’m not sure why the Academy doesn’t recognize the man year after year who brings characters like Caesar or Gollum to life but it is a damn shame.  Serkis is unbelievable in this role and he truly carries this movie in his movements and actions.  Caesar may not look like Serkis but that entire performance is truly Serkis.

The special effects in this movie are great.  You never really look at the apes and think they look CGI or fake.  They look damn real.

There is a comic relief ape in this movie which I can compare to Jar Jar Binks or Hobby.  That ape is named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who is an escaped zoo animal who ends up helping Caesar.  He has some very funny moments but most of the time his character had me rolling my eyes.  I’m not really sure why a film that tried to be so serious then decided to add a comic relief character.  Bad Ape really felt out of place and I thought really bogged down the film.

Though I was disappointed in this film and thought it the worst of the trilogy the film really isn’t that bad.  I would love to see it again a couple months down the road and see how it plays out now that I know the plot of the film.  My expectations could be why I found so many problems with the film but I think, at the end of the day, this film just isn’t as good as the other two.  Still this movie was much better then most of the other summer films so even though it wasn’t the best Apes movie it can still hold its own against many of these overblown and overhyped films like Alien: Covenant or Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 which felt like bloated messes.

RANK: B+