War for the Planet of the Apes15¦ 4K, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD
It's difficult not to be impressed by Andy Serkis. His talent for bringing computer generated characters to life is truly remarkable, and it's this ability that has secured him memorable roles in some big franchises - Gollum in the Middle-Earth flicks, as the eponymous iconic character in 2005's King Kong, and as Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi and possibly beyond. All huge films, and yet you'd probably struggle to recognise him, even if his bony elbow was sticking in your ribs in a particularly crowded lift.
This Englishman of many CGI faces though, has probably taken his most personal journey, playing the hirsute Caesar in this current run of 'Apes' films.
The fight between man and ape rages on. Not that their leader Caesar (Serkis) wants it that way; he just wants a quite life for him and all of his ape kind, but man has other ideas.
Even after the apes are attacked by a rogue paramilitary team, and capture some of its members, Caesar proves to be the bigger ape and lets his prisoners go, giving them a message to pass on to their Colonel (Woody Harrelson) - let's stop the war and embrace peace.
Unfortunately, the Colonel has no interest in kissing and making up, instead choosing to attack the camp and going on a killing spree. Caesar, now enraged by the human's actions, has only one thing on his mind - revenge.
Director Matt Reeves, who helmed the last Apes outing , clearly has a fondness for not only his source material, but for the character Caesar himself; after all he's gone through, he's still got fight in him, but he'd rather there was a peaceful resolution to it all. He is tired that his followers continue to be hunted by humans, and his heart hangs heavy with the responsibility he's been given to protect them. This is all emoted through the sheer brilliance of Serkis. It's through his performance - and the incredible technology that renders the hundreds of CGI characters so life-like - that makes Caesar more human than the humans. It doesn't happen often that when mankind is in a fight for survival, the audience would happily see it follow the Dodo, in order that the cuddly apes survive.
Perhaps where Reeves overstretches is with the story; the element regarding the mutation of the initial virus, feels completely unnecessary. He should have gone the whole hog and have them turn into zombies and be done with it. Instead, he gives the film an added twist that just doesn't feel twisty enough to be merited.
There are also a number of nods - possibly too many - to Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now, with Harrelson clearly playing the crazy Kurtz role, and Serkis as Willis. In fact the film should have been called Ape Heart of Darkness.
Despite all these little touches, some that work better than others, the film belongs to Serkis. He breathes an untold amount of life into Caesar, giving him both the presence and pathos of a troubled Shakespeare lead, but without the need to wear the ruff.
Although there's talk of possibly more ape films swinging their way onto our screens, which may or not be one ape film too many, War for the Planet of the Apes acts as a natural bookend to this particular trilogy, with its warring monkeying around, well worth a watch.