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Film Review: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Written by: Victoria Alexander | July 31st, 2017

Film Poster: War For The Planet Of The Apes
Film Poster: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Sensational! A fully realized, fascinating world. The best film of 2017…so far.

I admit I was not a faithful fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise. I don’t remember what happened in the last one, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) or RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011). 

Well, I do see a lot of movies.

I will remember WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and see it again. It is so memorable, it is up there – for me – with BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN,  APOCALYPSE NOW and David Fincher’s under-appreciated “Ripley in Prison” ALIEN 3.

Enormous credit must go to director Mark Bomback who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Reeves.  WAR stands alone. It is the best film of 2017 (so far) and will be on my Top 10 List for the year.

Tim Burton, who directed PLANET OF THE APES in 2001, sabotaged the hoped-for franchise. Luckily, someone decided to go back to the well and thus we have RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011), DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) and now the best movie of Summer 2017, WAR.

Regardless of whether you are firmly in the ape’s corner, what Bomback and Reeves have done is given both sides good reasons for their actions. Okay, how one side goes about accomplishing their goal is inhumane, but still…what if an ape airborne virus was destroying mankind? 

Would you want a family of apes living next door?

I’ve been to Rwanda and visited the great apes. We got very close and by the end of the day we were all making the welcoming “We are friends, don’t kill us” grunt. We were there for the times the apes settled down and were eating. They knew we were coming by the grunts since groups come twice a day.

Film Image: War For The Planet Of The Apes
Film Image: War For The Planet Of The Apes

We were close enough to observe the entire “family”. When the signal came, all our heads went down. The silverback was on the move! He brushed past me. It was a terrifying moment.

None of the PLANET movies have any connection with reality or primate behavior. Just two facts are necessary to know: Gorillas are the largest of the great ape species and they can be difficult to track down. They change locations every day in search of food, usually avoid each other and are aggressive towards outsiders.  Secondly, social interactions between members of different troops are usually very rare, especially for females. Chimpanzees are a notable exception.

However, we are not yet in PLANETS world, but probably will be in a few hundred years. 

Those early experiments between human and non-human have resulted in all species and sub-species of apes acquiring highly attuned human qualities. They have made huge advancements in reading, writing and music but not poetry. They also have a society that does not need money. 

David Meade, author of the conspiracy book “Planet X – The  2017 Arrival” claims Nibiru – a hypothesized blue planet larger than Earth that lies on the edge of our solar system – is set to hit into our planet in October 2017 after being driven here by the gravitational pull from a ‘binary star’ twinned with the Sun. Meade says the star is difficult to spot because of the angle it is approaching Earth.

NASA answers by saying, “Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an internet hoax. Obviously, it does not exist.”

So why are billionaires building underground mansions in Australia and New Zealand?

What does this have to do with WAR? I just wanted youth know you have until October to pay off those bills.

Perhaps there is a connection with ancient Sumerian writings. There writings tell of a race of superior beings – the Anunnaki – who came to Earth in search of gold. A complex mining operation was begun in southeast Africa which later required human hybrid slaves. Described by Sumerian texts, thousands of years ago, the Anunnaki took the gentle and docile Hominid species we know as Homo Erectus and bred a human hybrid from their own DNA. This explains the famous “missing link”. 

Evolved apes have become slaves in WAR.  They are doing slave labor for a madman. 

We know how the evolved apes began. Chimpanzee Bright Eyes was given ALZ-112. Unintentionally, she became smarter. Her son, Caesar, inherited her enhanced intelligence and then eclipsed it. To help his fellow primates, he stole a new drug – ALZ-113 – and used it on other apes. Caesar started a revolt that led to a mass breakout of apes from the Primate Shelter, the Lab and the S.F. Zoo. 

Ten years after the Ape Rebellion, every ape born has increased in intelligence and developed more human brain functions. Caesar is now in control of a “nation” of evolved apes. But a virus, the Simian Flu Pandemic, has emerged and threatens  Earth’s major occupants – humans. In DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, human civilization has long since collapsed. Some fractions of the human population are in isolated survivor groups. 

After a rebellion led by militant bonobo Koba, Caesar is overthrown. Koba’s death occurs as a result of a battle with Caesar. 

And this is where WAR begins. A large group of evolved apes are being held as slaves in a remote, heavily fortified compound under the command of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The Colonel’s soldiers capture Caesar (Andy Serkis.) at his hideout, killing his wife and son. 

Caesar’s few supporters volunteer to go with him to avenge the massacre: chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary), orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) and gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). They travel cross-country through snow-covered THE REVENANT terrain. A zoo escapee “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn) and a young girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), join Caesar. Nova is mute due her to exposure to the Simian Flu. How long will she live? 

The Colonel’s cold, muddy, rain-soaked compound is weapons heavy. The Colonel is using the apes as slaves to build a wall. The Colonel, who has seen APOCALYPSE NOW,  has fashioned himself on Colonel Kurtz. He is just as brutal and bald as his idol. Its a freezing cold environment that makes BLADE RUNNER’s dark, dank and atmospheric design look like a perfect holiday vacation setting.

There is no theater here in Las Vegas with D-Box motion simulatortechnology. With select motion-enhanced films, D-Box allows the viewer to feel movement and vibration effects in sync with onscreen film action. So was the movie theater’s 30 below zero temperature set intentionally on freezing to allow us to experience the Colonel’s compound firsthand?

The Colonel is starving his slaves and has them working without rest. Capturing Caesar brings the Colonel face-to-face with his ideological equal. Should the apes be allowed to live in peace as the virus rages, having already killed 90% of the human population?

The Colonel is indeed a crazy psychopath, but he must build that wall as he will soon be under siege by a human army with a different agenda.

This is an intelligent, morally interesting movie. The beauty of the production is outstanding. Everything about the apes is astonishingly realist. Once again, Serkis is given a weighty role and free range to display a huge variety of expressions. Caesar has become a mythical creation and the subtle comparisons to Biblical leaders is obvious.

Harrelson, is always fascinating. Has he ever done a bad  performance?  I recently watched RAMPART again. He was terrific in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and with Matthew McConaughey made TRUE DETECTIVE’S creator Nic Pizzolatto the new TV messiah – until Season 2 (which I really liked!) I imdb’ed Harrelson and yeah, he made a few bad choices, like NOW YOU SEE ME , 1 and 2. 

Summer films have strong fun entertainment value. WAR has more – it has philosophical conundrums. The production is breathtaking.  The cinematography is by Michael Seresin and the Production Design by James Chinlund. 

Instead of spending money on HOUSE, see a movie that was created by hundreds of very talented people and one that delivers a story and a perfect, just resolution.


Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: Victoria Alexander contributes to Films in Review (, Film Festival Today ( and Las Vegas Informer (

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