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“War for the Planet of the Apes” is a high point for the franchise

It’s always a good sign when a studio lifts an embargo for a giant blockbuster weeks in advance. That’s happening twice this week, in fact. In a few days, I’ll be able to talk about Spider-Man: Homecoming early, but today, the embargo has lifted on something else. Yes, it’s War for the Planet of the Apes, which is really good. In fact, it’s probably the best installment in the franchise ever, including the originals. This is the rare summer studio film that’s nuanced and complicated, while also being action packed. It threads the cinematic needle in a very strong way. Kudos to all involved here.

The movie takes place after the events of both Dawn of the Planet of the apes as well as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, obviously. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still leading the Apes, though he’s about to face his toughest challenge yet. Koba (Toby Kebbell) may be in the past, but a new human threat in The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is about to bring the bad ape out in Caesar. Once he suffers losses among his ranks, including some of those closest to him, he sets out on a revenge mission. That shortsighted tactic not only lands him in an ape prison camp run by The Colonel, but will put all of his apes in grave jeopardy. War is inevitable. Matt Reeves again directs and co-writes with Mark Bamback here. Among the supporting cast, there’s returning players like Judy Greer, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, and more, while newcomers include Amiah Miller and Steve Zahn. The gorgeous cinematography is by Michael Seresin, while the top notch score comes from Michael Giacchino.

Some are calling this the best film of the year to date, and while I can’t go that far, it’s undeniably strong stuff. Serkis continues to do amazing work, the CGI is flawless, and the emotions are all on point. My only issue is one that’s not really an issue, just a matter of personal preference. To me, there’s a slight Uncanny Valley situation at hand, as despite it being Motion Capture, I still know none of the apes are real. That takes away a little emotion. Most don’t have that issue, and I really never have it anywhere else, but because it’s so powerful in its storytelling, I notice it, for whatever reason. That’s just me.

I’ll have another piece just on the Oscar hopes for War for the Planet of the Apes, but the flick clearly will gun for technical awards. Beyond that, sit tight for that article, but in 20th Century Fox’s wildest dreams, they could see Best Picture, Best Director (for Reeves), Best Actor (for Serkis), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Bomback and Reeves), in addition to Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. You can mark this one down as a Visual Effects nominee, perhaps even the frontrunner, but that’s the only thing you can be sure about at this particular juncture.

Next month, audiences are in for a treat when War for the Planet of the Apes opens. It’s a really good film, one that offers way more than a blockbuster usually does. Fans of the franchise will be delighted, that’s for sure. It’s a high point for the trilogy and likely to be one of the summer’s best. During its week of release I’ll be back to talk more about it and specifically look at its potential awards viability, but as pure cinema, it’s high quality. This is a movie to really look forward to seeing, if you weren’t in the bag for it already…

Stay tuned for more on War for the Planet of the Apes in July when it hits theaters!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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