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"WAR" completes great "APES" trilogy

The final film in the APES reboot trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes, has been well received by audiences, fans, and critics alike. As a result, a lot has been written on the film that covers a lot of ground by way of commentary. I've written quite a bit about various aspects of the Apes films as an almost lifelong fan going back to my childhood, and in light of the volume of material available on War online, I'll simply share a few impressions after watching this great film.

To begin the acting was top-notch. Woody Harrelson gives a good performance as the human villain, and like many have noted already, Andy Serkis is wonderful as Caesar. I join the chorus of calls for those who want to see performance-capture added as a category for consideration by the Academy Awards. Serkis' performance is very moving, and with that coupled with the ability of technology to capture facial expressions, the viewer forgets that one is watching a non-human animal, which makes it easy to get caught up in the story and empathize with the apes against one's own species.

The visuals are also amazing. From the wooded home of the apes who flee like refugees, to the human military camps, the cinematography in this science fiction film rivals that of any standard drama. At one point I caught myself mesmerized by a scene with a waterfall, simply because of the beauty of the imagery in connection with the developing story.

Like it's trilogy predecessors, War includes elements that connect it to the five films in the original franchise. This makes for a great time Easter egg hunting, and provides a nice sense of nostalgia for older fans. In addition, it also makes for an interesting bit of storytelling as the script writers work to make seemingly natural connections between the updated story and the films of the late 1960s and 1970s. In War viewers will find many nods to the original film of 1968, but also to Beneath the Planet of the Apes with the use of "Alpha and Omega."

Previously I've written on religion in the Apes franchise, and it surfaces in War as well. The Colonel wears a cross, and has a cross and Bible in his quarters, even while engaging in atrocities against apes as well as his fellow humans. In one scene after speaking to his troops he finishes his audience with them by making the sign of the cross in the air, mimicking a priestly blessing on the people, which is connected to his conception of his military action as a holy war.

Then there's the social commentary. In our age characterized by deep political and religious divisions, at times involving violence and even genocide, War, as well as Rise, speak well to this situation. Human beings are incredibly tribal creatures, and we tend toward inter-group as well as intra-group conflict with very little provocation. This is accompanied by hatred toward others, the desire for revenge, all of which puts empathy and forgiveness in short supply. One of the best elements of War is the way in which it takes audiences on Caesar's journey for his soul, picking up where Rise left off with the death of Koba who was consumed by hatred of humans and a desire for revenge. Caesar seemingly wants to pursue a different path, but tragic personal circumstances make him wrestle with his own demons of vengeance in this film. For viewers able to connect the dots self-critically from [to current events, whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the legal battle over Middle Eastern refugees, or the fate of war-torn Syria, War provides plenty of material to help us look carefully in the mirror at human nature.

Director Matt Reeves has said in an interview that he's interested in one more film in the Apes series, one that helps bring this prequel trilogy up to the point of the 1968 film. Given his successes in handling of the Apes mythology, I hope for at least one more film.

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