We’re already beset with harbingers of our demise — from antibiotic-resistant superbugs to rising oceans — so judge for yourself the entertainment value in seeing humans take another beating. Men make their last stand in War for the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves’ conclusion to the re-booted Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), we learned of bio-engineered super-smart apes, who escaped from captivity. Then, in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), many humans succumbed to a deadly virus, while the apes, living in the woods, got organized. Now just a few obstacles stand in the way of their goal: a planet of the apes!
In this sparely plotted, somewhat dour episode, the apes-with-a-purpose must defeat a few special-forces troops (the men wear helmets penned with funny mission statements like “Monkey Killer” and “Bedtime for Bonzo”), then infiltrate and take down a walled ape-prison run by the renegade Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson). The small band of ape freedom fighters is led by Caesar (played by Andy Serkis, the premier motion-capture actor who gave us Gollum). The group also includes a mute little girl carrying a rag doll (two times the maudlin), and the “quirky” Bad Ape, portrayed by Steve Zahn, who is as irksome as an ape as Zahn is in his other forced “oddball” roles.
To the extent that this is a morality play, the apes are clearly the aggrieved party, but Caesar, not unlike his human analogues, chooses violent resolution. Plenty of blame to go around, as well as lots of killing. I found the machinations tedious — the film is more than two hours long — and there isn’t much tension regarding the eventual outcome. War is a necessary gloomy transitional piece, in which the apes are finally freed to create their own society in what I presume will be countless films to come. I like a good talky political thriller more than another muddy battle, so put me down for Democracy for the Planet of the Apes.