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War for the Planet of the Apes (2D/3D)


Stars: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Toby Kebbell, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Judy Greer, Terry Notary

Director: Matt Reeves

Scenes staged with painterly precision, notably the 'tableau' ending, underline the ambition of director Reeves' latest entry into the 'Apes' franchise, which struggles somewhat to justify its title, in spite of a dynamic opening sequence in which an ape stronghold is attacked by human forces.

But some dodgy CGI effects, an often slow-moving scenario and a plot that should occupy about half of its allotted 140 minutes, take the film a notch down on its two predecessors.

An unusual music score (the album's a must-buy) does its considerable best to help elicit sympathy for the film's ape characters, although it's hard to engage with the central group that propels the plot, in spite of the best efforts of mo-cap master Serkis as the human-speaking ape Caesar.

His passion for peace is derailed when human forces led by an uneasily cast Harrelson (given rather too much screen time) inflict heavy casualties in a Pyrrhic victory over the ape tribe at the hub of the story. 'I offered you peace, and you killed my family,' grates Caesar, who has just lost his wife and one of his two sons.

So, accompanied by three intrepid followers, Caesar sets out on a seemingly hopeless mission to find 'the Colonel' and take his revenge. On the way, they pick up a mute human girl (Miller), whose affliction is sweeping through the remaining human population, and a sort of simian Ben Gunn (Zahn), whose incessant chatter at least provides temporary relief from the need for subtitles.

Some of the apes here are beginning to look more like monsters from Hollywood horror films of the 1940s, and are not even up to the standard of the Charlton Heston original from the 1960s, although Konoval is to be congratulated for bringing wordless personality to the giant orangutan Maurice, through a series of whistles and snuffles.

The film bursts into life in an explosive last 20 minutes, but it's a long wait.

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour (unspecified).
140 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Jul 2017