Ask most people what the third film to any trilogy requires and they’ll likely state something along the lines of “a grand finale.” It is true, most trilogies conclude with a plot that encapsulates the most awe-inspiring aspects of the overlying story arc, resulting in something that the general audience would describe as “big.” War for the Planet of the Apes — the third film in the rebooted prequel trilogy to the 1968 original — adheres to very little of the preconceived notions associated with third acts.
Its plot is simplistic in nature, though its story pulls a few strings that leaves the viewer feeling far more empathetic and emotional than when they entered the theater. At its core, it’s a story of survival while facing perilous opposition — a sort of allegory to the Jewish Holocaust or the persecution of Christians during the rule of the Roman Empire.
What lengths would you go to in your journey of revenge? When the only things in life you care about have been pulled from under you before you have a chance to realize what’s happened, how do you go about dealing with the man who has placed you at your lowest low? It’s that vengeful relationship between Caesar and Woody Harrelson’s Colonel — a parallel to Apocalypse Now’s own megalomaniac Colonel — that is a driving force in this otherwise methodical exploration of human nature, even human nature manifested through humanized apes.
There are several factors surrounding this movie that work very well. First and foremost is, once again, the incredible performance from Andy Serkis. It may seem contrived by now to state a great performance from a stellar performer like Serkis, but it’s all completely due. This time around he’s given more dialogue as Caesar has evolved further since the last film, but it’s in the eyes that Serkis offers the purest form of acting. His performance simply further makes the fact that he has never once been even nominated for an Oscar a sheer crime.