War for the Planet of the Apes 22.07.17
Another slick, exciting offering from the Planet of the Apes franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes (WFTPOTA) is as tense a piece of story-telling as it is emotionally uninvolving afterwards. I left wondering not what happens next in this franchise, but why I felt so detached beyond the screening room doors.
It could be the heroes themselves, the apes. Their experience in WFTPOTA is a tragic one; as allegory it has echoes of Native American history, of a people/species wanting to exist at one with nature in the American wilds, while being pushed back by militaristic white men determined to wipe them out. There is an apparent effort on the part of the movie's producers to show the apes in a good light, as tender, gentle, loving, none more so than the franchise hero Caesar, played via motion capture by Andy Serkis. Yet in creating so worthy a figure, and so innocent a gathering of sympathetic victims, the franchise has also constructed something too simplistically deserving of our support. When a people/species are this innocent, you want them to survive, and then disappear happily ever after.
For the most captivating element of WFTPOTA is Woody Harrelson's brutal military leader, known simply as The Colonel. The best moments of the film involve Harrelson's engagements with Caesar; in particular, the scene in which The Colonel explains his motivation behind war against the apes is both moving and convincing, with personal tragedy at its core. Harrelson is so good, mixing effectively dark humour with a simmering anger, that I found myself wondering during the film why the superhero franchises haven't harnessed his maverick charms as a striking villain yet. Like so much of WFTPOTA, he has his arc and it is satisfying. I would even recommend this film on the strength of Harrelson's performance alone. As for the rest, it's a good action movie, but with little more to say from a franchise-based perspective, at least on this showing.