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War for the Planet of the Apes (3D Blu-ray Review)

3 Nov, 2017 By: John Latchem



Fox
Sci-Fi

Box Office $146.81 million
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3D BD, $39.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
Stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Toby Kebbell, Gabriel Chavarria.

Watching the behind-the-scenes footage of War for the Planet of the Apes, I started to wonder how filmmakers from 50 years ago if plunked into the modern age would react to some of the visual effects techniques employed today. The original Planet of the Apes was a remarkable achievement in make-up effects, with sets populated by dozens of actors in full simian regalia, which must have been an astonishing sight for anyone visiting the production.

Nearly 50 years later, the sights are astonishing in a different way: actors in body-hugging gray suits, covered in dots and miniature cameras and other rigs, performing as apes with the intention of replacing them with computer-generated visual effects somewhere down the line. Such are the ever-evolving tools of Hollywood’s imagination.

War for the Planet of the Apes is another remarkable visual achievement in the franchise, wrapping up a reboot trilogy that began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and continued with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. In the latest installment, the second to be directed by Matt Reeves, the point of view is almost entirely with the apes, as the story inches closer to the complete collapse of humanity and the final dominance of the apes not unlike what was seen in the original 1968 film (though the new trilogy is not set within the same timeline for obvious reasons). 

Reeves has blended a variety of genres for this new film, which at various times feels like a Western, a revenge flick, a prison escape film and a Biblical epic. The story involves the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) desiring peace with the remnants of humanity, but keeping his ape society in hiding from their armies, who are sworn to destroy the new ape civilization. After the latest attacks by a bloodthirsty colonel (Woody Harrelson), Caesar leads a small band of fighters to track down the human army and give his followers enough time to migrate to a new land to build their home.

The 3D adds a nice visual flair, but the film is visually arresting enough in 2D so as not to make viewers wonder how it would look with another layer of depth.

Aside from the visual effects to create the apes, this movie feels very much like a classic Hollywood epic from decades ago. Composer Michael Giacchino contributes greatly to that feeling with a lush musical score that feels very much like a throwback. Giacchino himself was a fan of the original “Apes” films and his efforts to evoke Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for those films is very much intentional.

And, as we learn in the six-minute “Music for Apes” featurette included with the Blu-ray, one of the musicians, Emil Richards, worked on the original film and brings some of the same techniques to crafting the sounds for the new one.

It’s appropriate, since this is not a production that is inclined to overlook its roots, paying respects to the larger franchise in two more featurettes. The 20-minute “Apes: The Meaning of It All” takes a look at the recurring themes and social commentaries of the franchise dating back to the original 1968 film, while the eight-minute “The Apes Saga: An Homage” chronicles how the new films reference the older ones.

The Blu-ray also includes 23 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Reeves. Most of these scenes were cut from the film before the visual effects were added, so it’s pretty raw footage of the actors in their aforementioned motion-capture suits, which makes it very interesting footage to watch.

More of the amazing visual effects work is on display in the 10-minute “WETA: Pushing Boundaries,” as well as the 13-minute “All About Caesar,” which focuses specifically on the main character and Serkis’ performance.

“Waging War for the Planet of the Apes” is a good half-hour featurette covering the production as a whole.

Finally, Reeves provides a good solo commentary that relates some of the scene-specific challenges of making the film.

 

 


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