Tuesday, 11 July 2017
REVIEW: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
140 Mins. Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Judy Greer & Steve Zahn. Director: Matt Reeves.
Caesar, Serkis together...strong! Damn this dirty ape is hella good. So good in fact Andy Serkis deserves a statue of Academy gold with white spots dotted on it for his work behind the green screens. An Oscar for his Caesar. The 'Kong' and Gollum star of 'The Lord Of The Rings' is motion-pictures motion capture king. And with the Serkis back in town, Andy picks and sifts through each thread of this digital make-up as meticulously as a chimp does another apes hair. If you think anyone can just monkey around with this then you're wrong, because this is Serkis' business. It's a wonder why they didn't pick up this 'King Kong' Empire State star for 'Skull Island' this year, because this is this apes planet. We're just living in his new age, digitised world. Which will see yet another 'Jungle Book' reimagining, back to Rudyard's bare necessities and even a real-life, actual face to face role in Marvel's 'Black Panther' next year. But when it comes to this 'Planet Of The Apes', from the Golden Gate Bridge set-piece, to all the ones they've obliterated in arms this could even go to war with Charlton Heston's 'Battle', no Wahlberg astronaut. There is only one primate thumping his chest. Even if in each film of this future franchise the supporting actor has changed. From James Franco's fine performance in 'Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes'. To Jason Clarke's class act alongside a war weary Gary Oldham in 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes'. But this time with no real good guys on the human side its the turn of an 'Apocalypse Now' bald Woody Harrelson as a general who seems to be shaving his head with a cut-throat razor and menace throughout the entirety of this film. Because the real unchanged and untamed hero here is Serkis' Caesar. As returning director linked with Ben Affleck's 'The Batman', Matt Reeves continues his rise with the greatest trilogy since 'The Dark Knight' one. When it comes to bleak, post-Apocalyptic future fables that deal with problems of tomorrow today, no one goes as back to black as Matt. These apes were howling...now with a snarl they're growling.
Now the only thing missing in this Vancouver snowscaped tundra of turmoil is the Statue of Liberty's head in the sand. But with Reeves this is as real world and as raw as it gets. You won't believe this is green screen. Seriously! Ask 'why so' and we'll answer with, 'two monkeys get into a bath. One cries, "ooh, ahh ohh". So the other replies, "pour some cold in"'! You see that was a gag. But this is no joke. And with Serkis' act expect the same. Because this actor doesn't just play Caesar...he is Caesar like "et tu". He brings life and humanity to this animal, taking this primate to its prime. Sure prancing around in a Go Pro get-up with no C.G. for the eyes may elicit mirth, but in actual (virtual) reality this is no laughing matter. When it comes to mastering every nuance and emotion, no matter the mammal, Serkis is a beast. And if that's the kind of creature he is then Woody is a monster. As this cowboy has more than a snake in his army boots. More like a stick up his military minded ass for anyone who goes bananas at the sight of a low hanging tree. A fatigued soldier in combat gear that matches the old Carhartt look of Charlton's apes. With a WW2 beret and "naplam in the morning" aviators. Not to mention the cut-throat Sweeney Todd accessory and instrument he uses to orchestrate his army. Woody Harrelson has the iron-will here to be part of the brass but the 'Cheers', 'White Men Can't Jump', 'Natural Born Killers' and 'True Detective' decorated actors character is missing a purple heart...or even a beating one. As his contradictory "sometimes the only way to save our humanity is to abandon humanity" trailer only (seriously what is with this in movies?! Enough already!) speech doesn't rouse much confidence. But speaks volumes of the conflicting nature of this man vs monkey movie like his talk of mercy.
Bathing in apes this movie is drenched in drama. Like an epic early scene in the rain thar sees Serkis' creature creation climbing up the ropes of an abseiling from a helicopter Harrelson in harness. As he tries to machine gun the monkey to his abyss with a illuminating emerald, rifle scope, laser pointer. The glimpse of Ceasar's biting teeth and piercing eyes through a shimmer of green light in this thunderous night shows not only how incredible this set-piece is, but how detailed it is in it's digital effects that are still so groundbreaking. No matter how much they are taken for granted today. It's a visionary look that is evoked throughout the whole film. From an escaped "Bad Ape" hermit with a heart played lovingly and a relief lighter by Steve Zahn. In a class cast from 'Jurassic World's Judy Greer, to a scene stealing Amiah Miller in a non-verbal introduction that is anything but muted. To a "Donkey Kong" gorilla gone rogue whose layered, devoid of any telling emotion, gone look at his fellow apes who he's turned against being gunned down is either one of pacify or deep seated regret. It's master digital mo-cap strokes like this that are C.G.I's greatest look at expressionism. Showing like the best Hollywood movies of Academy there's more than meets the eye of this that transcends plain, old acting. In a 'Transformers: Last Night' hatchet job of summer season corn poppers, this last stand is more than a blockbuster or monster movie. It's a monolith set in the Canadian mountains that can rock anybody or thing to it's core. Whether it's a fast and furious 'Baby Driver'. To a galaxy of super-charged characters like 'Wonder Woman' or Marvel's 'Homecoming' hero. As this Simian virus spread like a radioactive spiders bite gone nuclear. And to make matters better in this film that throws s### at everybody from the Donald administration, to those who think human life trumps the animal kingdom, no animals were harmed in the making of this movie. Or actors behinds sitting in make-up chairs all day...you know what we mean Tim Roth. It's all C.G. baby and beautifully rendered in ravishing quality for the IMAX big screen right before your 3D eyes. Making this human nature versus animal nurture picture as real a portrait as that actual issue of our place in an "all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small" world still is today. And that's what makes this moviemaking more than the graphics and the actual content of this cinematic classic in a Serkis act were you can't see the strings (come on admit it, you keep forgetting that Ceasar is just a C.P.U. assist character don't you?). You've seen nothing like this big three and it's holy trinity conclusion. If only the lord of the motion capture films could give us a return of the king. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'Battle For The Planet Of The Apes', 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes', 'Kong: Skull Island'.