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For a movie about war, particularly a war alluded to at headline level, I gotta say, War for the Planet of the Apes felt kinda boring. I realize I’m against the grain on this one, and that many have proclaimed it a masterpiece.

Perhaps I didn’t have enough coffee, and was a little sleepy before heading to the theater for the epic conclusion of the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy (nominally)—that started with the surprisingly great Rise of the Planet of the Apes directed by Rupert Wyatt, and was followed in gripping fashion by Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But I suspect that perhaps there’s more to it than just my tired eyes.

“Even having seen the last two Apes flicks, I was fairly confused early on as to where we were, and what was happening, and more importantly, why I should care – I mean aside from the fact that I’m an animal lover.”

Director Reeves is back for War, too, and there’s no doubt he’s at home in the incredibly realized world, which finds genetically enhanced genius ape leader, Caesar (motion-capture performance wizard, Andy Serkis), just trying to keep his clan safe and free from humans, and unable to do so because of Crazy Colonel Woody Harrelson’s angry army of ape haters. But I wonder if maybe Reeve’s familiarity, and his belief that others are familiar as well, is a detriment to the film as a standalone piece of entertainment.

Even having seen the last two Apes flicks, I was fairly confused early on as to where we were, and what was happening, and more importantly, why I should care – I mean aside from the fact that I’m an animal lover. Those problems could very well be cleared up if you’ve got an good understanding of the set-up already, but not if you’ve got a memory problem, as there is definitely some catching up to do. Not to mention the story itself is kind of a slow burn, so if your brain isn’t working quickly enough, it may just fall behind and never catchup. And further weighing down the eyelids are the many subtitles you get to read when the apes are talking to each other – perhaps a record amount for a summer movie.

Still, I’m pretty sure the tissue will connect for me a lot more solidly upon not just a second viewing of War, but also Dawn. And judging by what others have said, I’m willing to invest that time to see if their right. Upon doing so, I’m pretty sure that I’ll agree with the vast majority of Tomato graders that with this final Apes installment, Reeves and company have accomplished something rare in the world of blockbuster franchises: an overarching story that makes you think, a lot, about the nature of man, of beast, and what it means to truly be evolved.

In recent years, I’ve left many a comic book movie and sci-fi epic belittling the writers for so many gaping, obvious plot points, that are so often just glossed over with mega set-pieces. It’s the thing I most deride about modern blockbusters. So I guess here I’m complaining about the very same thing I’ve been hoping for: a thinking man’s action movie. Just in this case, perhaps I could have used a bit more weight on the action side.

Adam Pockross
About the Author

LA via Seattle via Vail via Syracuse via Denver via Chicago via the universe. Adam Freeman Pockross was raised by an English teacher mother, who, despite overbearing guilt, still managed to instill a passion for words – particularly those lovingly laced with alliteration. Over the years of over-education, Adam has professionally written about a vast array of subjects, including arts & entertainment, wine, the environment, cars, kids (though he has none), and, most embarrassingly, dick jokes. He’s also unprofessionally working on a digital children’s book for adults and playing in Playa del Rey's biggest rock n' roll cover band (as judged by member count, not popularity).

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