By Sam Brady

Never have summer blockbusters felt so poignant or intelligent than any of the three new Planet of the Apes films. The third, in particular, finds a way to be thoughtful and even beautiful throughout most of the runtime. Keep in mind that this is no small feat either. War for the Planet of the Apes deals with fairly dark material at times and manages to make every beat hit and hit hard like few big tentpole films can do.

More so than the past two films, War for the Planet of the Apes gets to the deepest depths of it’s core to present a film that is harsh and gloomy, but never hopeless. The characters that have been built through two previous films have development that makes you care for them and their lives, even if they are computer generated apes. And the film presents all of this in a way that makes you, as an audience member, root against your own species in this supposed war.

None of these tremendous accomplishments of War for the Planet of the Apes would be possible were it not for the jaw-dropping work from Andy Serkis. He is Caesar and the amount of work he puts in to every minute detail and movement brings that character to a whole new level. The rest of the motion capture work for the apes is tremendous as well, particularly Steve Zahn’s quite humorous Bad Ape. The weakest member of the cast is unfortunately Woody Harrelson. It’s not because he is a bad actor, far from it, but the character is so over the top that he doesn’t really feel at home in this movie and doesn’t hold a candle to Toby Kebbell’s Koba from the last film.

Overall, War for the Planet of the Apes is a fitting end to Caesar’s trilogy. It’s emotional and heartfelt not to mention gorgeous to look at. The apes look as impressive as ever and the performances behind them only highlight that. A slightly weaker villain is not nearly enough to tarnish everything truly amazing that director Matt Reeves does with War for the Planet of the Apes. Smart, tight, and not afraid to treat the audience like adults, this franchise finds a way to go out on the highest note.

Movie showing everywhere now.

Score: 9.5

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