War for the Planet of Apes

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War for the Planet of Apes

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Third film in the series of adaptations and reboots of the science fiction franchise from the 60's has hit the screens on the back of glowing reviews. The first two parts of the 'trilogy' (looks like the next movie is in the works already) have turned out to be huge commercial hits. Among the fans & followers of the franchise, there seems to have been set expectations from the movie and the trailers have been cut to cater to that. But what the director and writer had achieved is far more than anybody had imagined. The key to that lies in the name of the film which reads ‘for’ and not ‘of’. There is a wonderful scene in the movie where a little girl asks whether she is an ape or a human? That for me encapsulates the film in a nutshell.


Michael Giacchino's score is one of the major pillars of strength for the film and highlights what a talented composer can bring to the table when he works with the director without interference from the studios. Marvel should be paying attention as the very same composer scored for Doctor Strange and the recent SpiderMan Homecoming.   The scores have several inspirations in tune with the themes handled in the film from Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia), John Williams (Schindler's List), Elmer Bernstein (Ten Commandments) and Ennio Morricone ( Good, Bad and Ugly). In fact, the composer has paid rich tribute to Morricone in naming one of the tracks from the OST as The ecstasy of the bold (ecstasy of gold being one of the most iconic film music tracks of all time).


Since the screenplay had invested richly on emotions and that too on a movie heavily reliant on SFX (Special Effects), music has to bridge the gap between the audience and white screen. The score of the film is reflective of the turmoil of the characters therein and the decay of the world its set in which elevates the movie immensely. It’s epic in scope and also manages to be very personal and intimate. The film should earn the composer Giacchino his third academy award nomination.


Michael Seresin, Director of Photography, has aptly brought to life the tones, themes of Matt Reeves to life and the depth of emotions is captured in full with an array of close ups. The Apes exodus scenes are staged with very specific references in mind and the editors have also done justice to the script written by not compromising the running time for the sake of modern run time of 120 minutes.


The SFX and motion/performance capture extensively used in Avatar by James Cameron is simply one of major reasons why anyone should a buy a ticket to watch this movie. WETA studios who had earlier worked with Peter Jackson on LOTR is at the helm of affairs. The performances are so detailed, the emotions are so believable and that paves way for the film to be impactful. This is a boundary pushing film as far as performance capture goes without which the screenplay would not have worked even in the slightest. 20th Century Fox have decided that the initial theatrical screenings of the film will only be in 3D. Again, it’s used only to enhance the connect rather than a marketing gimmick.

The performances lead by talent powerhouse Andy Serkis best known for his depiction of Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Caesar from the Apes trilogy has delivered his best work yet. The motion capture & voice artist is the soul of this franchise and his work in the movie is nothing short of extraordinary. The rage that lies within Caesar, the scar from the loss of loved ones, responsibilities of a leader, the drive to save his kind and the compassion that lies at his heart could not have been better represented by anyone else. Gollum was ignored by the Academy and if this performance doesn’t get recognised, I don't know what else will. He has simply raised the bar especially for the actors who are working in performance capture for Avatar sequels. Woody Harrelson plays the evil colonel which is based on Marlon Brando’s character from Apocalypse Now and is not very convincing as he doesn’t bring out all the shades of his character in its full might.


Writers Mark Bombuck and Matt Reeves firstly are very gutsy and brave. The very vision to provide this blockbuster franchise a deep, emotional and sombre treatment needs to be applauded. They drew inspiration from very many themes and films. It's written in such a way that it has traces of Sergio Leone's Western mixed with a war film like Bridge of River Kwai topped with Biblical tones like Ten Commandments and emotional overtones of Schindler's List.  Special mention for the design of the characters Maurice and Bad Ape.


Director Matt Reeves is hands on deck since and the dark tone of the film is set from the beginning and he doesn’t shy away from pushing the camera into Serkis. The mastery in the imagery, the movement on the camera, the very many tribute shots make this move an intense ride into the world and mind of Caesar as he struggles for the survival of his kind. Few downsides include the not very convincing escape plan and some overindulgence with certain characters before establishing it within the script. Matt Reeves narrates & directs the biblical story of exodus while exploring existential questions and nudges the audience to introspect. I’m excited to see the director's take on Batman along with Ben Affleck in his next directorial venture.


In an era dominated by template Marvel/DC superhero films, war for the planet of apes dares to tell a 'human' story in an uncompromising manner making it one of the best films of the year. It is most amazing to witness a craftily directed science fiction blockbuster franchise film which insists on traditional story telling which in turn is aided hugely by performance capture technology. This movie without a doubt marks Caesar as one of the most iconic film characters of the decade. Above all, this motion picture asks the most important question of all: When pushed to a corner, who is the savage?

Sriraman Srinivasan
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