War for the Planet of the Apes

Set against the majestic western skyline, this superbly mounted journey from a tormented exodus out of bondage to the promise of an ape-dominated future is a fitting prequel depicting the changing relationship between humans and apes as the inevitability we’re familiar with takes shape. As his darker instincts surface, after his family is massacred, Caesar rides off on horseback in pursuit of a savage Colonel (Woody Harrelson) known for his brutality. The first act in this installment of the franchise that leads up to events from the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie is a virtual remake of The Searchers, the John Ford film about the rescue of a man’s niece held captive by the Comanches. With its trek through hostile territory, beside tabletop mountains and across perilous snowfall, accompanied by a doddering, wide-eyed “Bad Ape” for comic relief, with its focus on a child’s doll and Caesar’s declaration that he “shouldn’t have brought the others along,” its western credentials are established. Its second act focuses on Caesar’s kind as forced labor until his four companions take steps to conduct a rescue which is straight out of Jacques Becker’s Le Trou, a French film from 1960 about a prison escape through tunnels. Notable answers provided: we learn why humans have lost their ability to verbally communicate in the original film, why apes and gorillas have formed an uneasy truce, why orangutans are more inclined to recognize human intelligence and why Cornelius is sympathetic to caged humans. Quite possibly the most beautifully photographed film so far this year, with a distinctive, vibrant score and an excellent delineation of what constitutes “being human” portrayed with sincerity and conviction by Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the kid (Amiah Miller)! It rivals the power of the original Planet of the Apes!