This week, the third instalment of 20th Century Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot finally swung into Australian cinemas. If you've been feeling jaded by the endless parade of superhero blockbusters, we recommend giving War For The Planet Of The Apes a shot: it's not perfect, but damn if it doesn't get you in the feels. (For a movie that primarily stars talking chimpanzees, that's quite a feat.)
War for the Planet of the Apes takes place several years after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (itself a sequel to the clunkily titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes.) Once again, it charts the conflict between a tribe of hyper-intelligent primates and the remnants of humanity which has been all but wiped out by the same drug that caused the apes to evolve.
For the most part, the apes just want to be left alone in the woods to chill, but the pesky humans keep sending soldiers to kill them. This prompts the primate leader Caesar to embark on a revenge mission with a handful of trusted comrades.
It's a ludicrous premise, but just like the 1968 original the film takes itself deadly seriously throughout. The only exceptions to the dour tone are the character of 'Bad Ape' (a cross between Gollum and Jar Jar Binks) and two (two!) poo-throwing gags. Otherwise, this film is every bit as grim as other post-apocalyptic weepies like The Road.
So to surmise, War for the Planet of the Apes is very depressing and very silly. So why the hell are we recommending it? In a word: Caesar.
The character of Caesar is arguably the most believable and fascinating CGI creation in the history of cinema. Despite our earlier protestations, we've finally been won over by all-CGI performances. This is mainly down to Andy Serkis' mo-cap portrayal of Caesar and the brilliant work of Weta Digital's key-frame animators.
We don't want to give too much of the plot away but be aware that knowledge of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is essential. We recommend watching those prior to heading into the cinema.
Last night, I caught an advanced screening of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. It's a surprisingly solid movie that any fan of the 2011 reboot is well advised to check out. The only potential caveat is that the titular primates are comprised entirely out of CGI instead of a mix of digital and practical effects. Rather than an evolutionary leap forward, I can't help but feel that a little bit of monkey magic has been lost along the way.