Like a virus, Hollywood has evolved to survive. Its most recent business has been to sidle towards us, camelhair overcoat flapped open, exposing fix upon fix stitched into the lining – each one an unnecessary answer to a classic question. Who created the Aliens? Why was the Death Star flawed? Is Deckard a replicant?

Chewy-titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes should have been a similar nightmare; a needless spoiler-cum-prequel for 1968’s Planet of the Apes, dislocated into the mould of a summer blockbuster. They even cast James Franco as the universe’s future Oppenheimer.

Except… Rise turned out great: a confident exercise in efficient filmmaking, and a muscular allegory somewhere alongside Frankenstein and Animal Farm.

This third chapter shares more DNA with the trilogy’s second film, but manages to best both its predecessors – by some margin. Simian Flu has now mutated into a far more potent contagion: hatred – an emotion that haunts Ape-Leader Caesar, a figure still wobbling between chimp and champion. Andy Serkis imbues each and every pixel of his character with the richness and depth of a soul.

“Your eyes,” villainous Colonel McCullough purrs at Caesar in his sub-Kurtz drawl (just one of many nods towards Coppola’s Apocalypse Now), “They’re almost human.” It may as well be the audience muttering the sentiment, dazzled by visuals that can now generate Avatar levels of excitement.

The price for evolution has always been the same as war: bloodshed. War is a startlingly bleak film for a summer tentpole, depicting the full and chilling horrors of endless conflict in a manner that far exceeds what its certification suggests.

Despite some sandpaperly anomalous comic relief, War for the Planet of the Apes is far-and-away the superior of the two Ape/Vietnam mashups we have experienced this year, and a thundering end to a powerful trilogy.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Andy Serkis, Judy Greer, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves

WRITERS: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves (screenplay), Pierre Boulle (novel)

SYNOPSIS: Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

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