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Third installment of this series, that acts as both prequel and reboot, joins the war between humans and apes two years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that started it. The war is starting to turn against Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the apes due to the aggressive methods of a psychotic colonel (Woody Harrelson). Caesar suffers personal loss and while on a mission of revenge, the apes are captured and enslaved by the colonel and his troops. Can Caesar free the apes and get them to a safe haven across the dessert before the colonel sees them all dead?

Second sequel is again directed by Matt Reeves, who co-wrote the script with Mark Bomback. As with Dawn this is an intense film both in terms of action and emotional depth and it’s all expertly directed by Reeves. Like his last go around, Reeves really gives his characters a three dimensional-ity and that certainly includes his motion capture CGI simians. This might be the most dramatically intense of the three films and when the action does come it’s a fast and furious spectacle that evokes some of the best war films. There are also some very subtle but clever nods to the original series, such as a mute little girl with a very familiar name.  The score is again by a returning Michael Giacchino and it adds atmosphere to a very solid entry in this clever re-imagining.

The cast are all strong, even though most of the principles are motion capture. Andy Serkis is once again very good as the ape leader Ceasar. He gives the character a lot of emotional depth through his body language and dialogue and it might be his best performance as the simian hero. Harrelson delivers another solid performance as the cruel, ape hating colonel. While he is most certainly the villain here, the script allows Harrelson to give him a human side, one built on fear and loss, so that he is not a two dimensional monster, but a human driven to hatred and cruelty due to his own inner pain and fear. Despite his heinous actions and cruel behavior, there is a person under the layers of anger and brutality. The supporting characters all do good work, too, from Karin Konoval as ape Maurice. Steve Zahn as the eccentric “Bad Ape” and little Amiah Miller as the mute Nova.

So, another top notch entry in this reboot series from Matt Reeves. It was as emotionally strong as it was filled with intense action. There was a good script and solid direction to go along with some very strong acting both from those playing humans to the motion capture performers behind our simian characters. A really good movie in a very solid series. If it is the last one, it is a fitting climax.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Caesars.

dawn apes rating