Words before the opening title preordain the sequence of events that have been set out in the first and second movies – it began with the Rise, and then the Dawn. And now it is War between the Humans and the Apes. The third act of this franchise sees director Matt Reeves, bringing to the forefront his protagonist Caesar’s struggle between revenge and peace – as his wife and son are murdered in a betrayal by his own species. An urgency to relocate his kind to the desert, away from the forest – where danger by human military is intermittent – is intermingled with his own desire for vengeance, and a stray away from the classic leader heroine is thus riddled by moral questions. The pacing of the film lacks momentum in its structure to properly sympathise with Caesar’s one-note journey; it only fluctuates through disaster and then resolution – without having enough ebbs and flows in between to keep the running time justified.
Caesar’s inner turmoil is less engaging than Woody Harrelson’s villainous character as The Colonel – and not exactly because his tactics to imprison the apes are substantially, if not almost blatantly, similar to a Nazi concentration camp (picture an American flag instead of a Nazi flag hanging from a podium). The devolution of the Human kind itself manifests in a desperate need for survival – a confrontation of the arrogance of human beings that has led to their ultimate extinction. Such ideas open up for the character of Nova, a young girl who has gone mute; unable to speak – a mutated virus that has led to humans becoming ‘primitive’ – do humans have a role in this world at all?
Yet, this is never explored to its full degree, and beats are predictable in this seeming conclusion to the story – where Caesar witnesses the effects of his own selfish motivations, but never truly learns the consequences of his craving for reciprocal murder. Nevertheless, the visual effects with motion-capture technology are reliably strong, and its big-budget value is evident in its gunfire and action sequences – however, there is little uniqueness about the way its execution. Michael Giacchino’s score tinkles with a piano melody, and blows out the brass in sections of tension – but also never truly reaches its full potential; and the film struggles with the same difficulty – often betraying moments of over-sentimentality in its revenge plot.