This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Caleb’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Let's think back in 2011. "Rise" was being advertised. I was a fan of the original film, and thought the remake was okay. But a reboot explaining Caesar? I was intrigued. They had Andy Serkis playing the part of Caesar, and it'd be a motion capture performance. At the time, I loved the film. It was great, fast-paced, and had an Oscar-worthy performance from Serkis.
Later, "Dawn" came, and I was there in the first week of release. I was totally blown away, and I mean that. Serkis' performance was extraordinary, and the character of Caesar was evolving. Every minute is not wasted with Caesar in "Dawn". It did help that the film was excellent as well. It had the budget of an epic scifi film, but never put its looks above all. It had a story to tell,and told it. In turn, it became one of my favorite films ever.
Now, we've come to this. "War". Well, not really, to be honest. The advertising implied a war, perhaps a final battle for the planet. Quite the contrary. What we have here is basically Ape-pocalypse Now combined with the Great (Ape) Escape, with a little bit of road traveling sequences reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings. This time, epic was written all over it, for the opening sequence. The careful cinematography in the opening is extraordinary. Quite memorable. From this point on, the film has many close up shots of the apes. My, my, my, my. I'm quite a nitpicker, I'll tell you, to find flaws in the CGI. There were moments where I thought I was watching a film of actual apes. It's an extraordinary achievement by the motion capture and CGI guys. Really, it is. It looked so seamless.
Let's discuss Andy Serkis' performance though. He was so good. Excellent. Whatever synonym you want to stick to him, I'll concur. He'll never get an Oscar, but maybe a honorary one. Not only with his performance did he create such a complex character that is Caesar, but the writing did him justice as well. Caesar chose his words carefully, and Serkis translated it incredibly well in his performance. Every minute of Caesar onscreen, was a not a minute wasted.
Along with Caesar, the film was able to tackle complex themes really well, although more poignantly if you've seen the previous two films. Ape vs. Ape. Human vs Ape. Human vs. Human. Nature vs Nurture. I believed the Colonel's final confrontation with Caesar was the correct, or rather, the more poignant outcome.
Caesar has a gun to the drunken Colonel's head. His son and wife were killed by the Colonel, so Caesar wants revenge. But the scene is drawn out, and for good reason. The Colonel encourages Caesar to kill him, because of the virus that had spread in the previous films, had mutated to impede one's ability to speak, and act like humans. But Caesar doesn't pull the trigger, but the Colonel does it himself.
If you've read up to this point, good for you, and I hope you enjoyed the film! Now, let's discuss that scene. I think it's the most poignant scene in the entire franchise because it speaks to Caesar's conflict within himself. Does he welcome humans or does he make them his foe? Does he want his apes to kill other apes? Does he even want to be the leader at all? It culminates in the moment where Caesar knew what he wanted to be. an example for all apes. He didn't pull the trigger, and from that point on, rounded out his character really well up to that point. The scene was acted the fuck out by Serkis and Harrelson. They made it tender, tedious, and real. After that moment, I knew I was watching an excellent film. It's a slow, bleak burn for sure, but it pays off incredibly well in the end. In short, this is a great fucking film.