A bit like Star Wars: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story earlier in the year this movie dovetails what came before but was actually made later than the movies that inspired them, if that makes sense.
The original movies back in the the late 60’s and early 70’s told a different tale, they were written in a time of seismic changes in America – the civil rights movement being just one of them. So restarting the franchise more recently was always going to be a more difficult sell, what was the story they wanted to tell. The filmmakers sought to outline the backstory of how it came to be. After the success of the first of the new movies, a second naturally followed and based on the success of that movie also, the current movie was pretty much a certainty and this is where we currently find ourselves with the same director from the previous movies – Matt Reeves.
Just a word before I start into the movie review proper – kudos should go to Andy Serkis for his continuing portrayal of Caesar, he has become so adept at the motion – capture special effects that you do not even question whether this is an ape or a man portraying an ape. He totally inhabits the part. He is not just a man in monkey suit so to speak.
After the showdown with Koba in the last movies, we are left in no doubt right at the very start that the title of this movie says it all. There is a split in the ape camp, they are not all fighting the same side. Some of them who followed Koba have thrown their lot with an army of humans, itself a split in the human camp led by a chillingly portrayed Colonel (Woody Harrelson), those apes just want to survive and if that means fighting their own kind well so be it.
After this initial showdown, the Caesar camp have found themselves suffering losses both in terms of their numbers and personally. This causes Caesar to go on a quest. At times the portrayal feels more like we are watching a Western genre movie from times past, Caesar not only has to confront this Colonel but also darker forces, is he becoming the very thing he sought to drive out of the Ape camp. It is has become a battle for the planet and whoever wins will become the dominant species.
It is unusual that a series of movies of movies to stay consistently strong over the telling, more often than not there is usually a weak one in the numbers. It does help if you have seen what came before, but equally it is strong enough to stand as a stand-alone story, with some nods to the original series of movie, and a certain other war movie quest.