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Movie Night – Latest ‘Planet of the Apes’ falls short of first two

By Bradley Griffith

In what many critics have hailed as the best movie of the year and has been labeled as the final chapter of the series, “War for the Planet of the Apes” concludes the saga of how the earth became a planet of apes.  Despite these generally glowing reviews, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is, disappointingly, the worst film of the series.

An unknown amount of time after the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” concluded a war between humans and apes began.  What remained of the United States Military was called in to deal with the scourge of the apes whose intelligence had been enhanced due to a human research project gone awry.  Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee and the leader of the apes, led the apes into hiding in the forest.

The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) was dispatched to dispatch Caesar.  With their unquestioned leader dead, The Colonel reasoned, the apes would lose focus and determination and would easily be slaughtered.  The Colonel infiltrated the headquarters of the apes and mistakenly killed Caesar’s wife and child rather than Caesar.

Caesar orders the apes to relocate to a new, safer place to call home while he rides toward the humans with revenge on his mind.  Against his wishes, Caesar is joined by three of his friends on his quest for vengeance.  Orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary), and gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite).

On their journey to find The Colonel the group comes upon a young girl in the wilderness.  She cannot speak, but she still forges a bond with Maurice.  Caesar declares that they will not take the girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), with them.  But Maurice refuses to leave her to die alone in the forest.  The group races to fine and eliminate the Colonel in the hope that it will end the war.  What they don’t know is that the real war doesn’t involve the apes at all.

The two previous films in this latest series of movies about a planet of apes blended real drama with action, excitement, and adventure.  They were a good platform that could have launched a fantastic series finale.  Instead, “War for the Planet of the Apes” was mostly dreary and boring.  It had none of the edge-your-seat tension present in the earlier movies.  The pace was slow and the action sporadic until the very end.

The ultimate culprit behind the lackluster movie was the idea that “War for the Planet of the Apes” needed to be deep, powerful, and meaningful.  The filmmakers tried so hard to imbue every single scene with purpose that by the time the movie ended you’re tired of meaningful glances, dramatic pauses, and ominous and overbearing music.

The people behind the movie forgot the most important aspect of any movie. Entertainment.  People go to the theater to be entertained.  There’s no doubt that movies can tackle important issues, that they can have meaning that surpasses pure entertainment.  “Hidden Figures” is a perfect example of an entertaining movie with meaning and purpose.  But the element of entertainment is integral in any successful movie.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” tried so hard to have an important message that it forgot to depict what that message might be.  If the movie contained any deeper meaning it was lost in translation.

The first two movies of the series were good, solid movies that could have led to a great conclusion.  Instead, rather than going out on a high note, “War for the Planet of the Apes” concluded the series with nothing more than a soft whimper.

Grade: C-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.