A quick recap about what happened in Dawn and Rise, and Matt Reeves goes right into War For The Planet Of The Apes, the third part of a rebooted franchise (the first Planet of The Apes was way back in 1968). At the core of the film is a caution about not messing with nature if humanity is to survive. In a bleak dystopian world, apes and humans are fighting for supremacy -- the noble savage apes could be stand-ins for any indigenous populace suffering under the venality and cruelty of humans.
After the fight with the militant Koba in the last film, English-speaking ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) returns as the leader of his beleaguered flock, just recovering from a massacre by humans. His loyal aide is the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), who refuses to let him go off alone in pursuit of the killer of his wife and older son.
Some simians have joined up with the maniacal Colonel (Woody Harrelson), who captures Caesar’s tribe and whips them into hard labour without food or water. Along with revenge, now Caesar and his small band have to find a way to liberate his tribe. Reluctantly joining the older apes is a wide-eyed newcomer who calls himself Bad Ape, and a mute girl child (Amiah Miller), who does not really serve any purpose except to show that all humans are not brutes like Colonel.
Captured himself, Caesar goes through a terrible ordeal in the freezing prison camp. The escape is reminiscent of classic prison break movies, and is as thrilling to watch.
The action set pieces are spectacular, even if the tone of the film is grim. Sophisticated technology ensures that the apes don’t look like men in gorilla suits, yet the facial expressions are wonderfully rendered, the eyes expressing much more than humans. The way the film ends, it does look like there is more to say, and another film could be on the way.