• by Wes Singleton

War for the Planet of the Apes, B

Rated PG-13, 142 minutes

"Apes, stronger together" is the mantra for the apes in the epic, entertaining "War for the Planet of the Apes," which helps given that this is the strongest of the three chapters of this new "Planet of the Apes" seris. The last act is a little shaky and the ending is a bit of a downer, but it has some momeents of beauty and power.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). Ater 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 of their species and the future of the planet.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" is directed and co-written by Matt Reeves, who directed the second installment, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and this outing is a compelling, well-acted look at how war alters the relationship of the apes with the humans and amongst themselves too. Serkis is stellar as always as the torn leader Caesar, torn as he leads the apes to be kind for the hatred he has for The Colonel, played with tough-guy skill by Harrelson. "War" is the most powerful and brutal of the three new "Apes" films, and also the most subtle and textured, though the narrative loses a little steam in the last act by going on too long.

Adding some comic relief is veteran actor Steve Zahn ("Captain Fantastic") as Bad Ape, an escaped monkey who aids Caesar and his entourage in their quest to overcome The Colonel. Getting in a handful of great scenes is Ty Olsson as Red, the big gorilla who once worked for Koba and now working for The Colonel to bring down Caesar. The handsome cinematography from Michael Seresin, who handled the photography for the second installment, captures both the stark realities of the ape slave camp yet the lovely snow-capped mountains around them; Reeves also seamlessly incorporates the handsome visuals throughout the film.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" is about 15 minutes longer than it needs to be, taking too long to finally execute an escape plan, and the final scene between Caesar and The Colonel is a little anti-climactic after such heavy build-up throughout the film. Still, "War" is a worthy, well-acted entry, especially for Serkis, who does his best job yet as the intelligent leader of the apes, and fans of his may not care for the tragic ending, though it still leaves it open for more films (and there is one being planned).

Add the powerful, satisfying "War for the Planet of the Apes" to your growing list of films to see this summer.

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