(director/writer: Matt Reeves; screenwriters: based on characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver/Mark Bomback; cinematographer: Michael Seresin; editors: William Hoy/Stan Salfas; music: Michael Giacchino; cast: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Woody Harrelson (The Colonel), Steve Zahn (Bad Ape), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Gabriel Chavarria (Preacher), Karen Konoval(Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Michael Adamthwaite (Luca), Ty Olsson(Red Donkey), Dervy Dalton (Cornelius), Sara Canning (Lake), Aleks Paunovic (Winter), Amiah Miller (Nova); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Twentieth Century Fox; 2017-3-D)

Nothing beats the 1968 original, but this third sci-fi reboot holds up as second best in the series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nothing beats the 1968 original, but this third sci-fi reboot holds up as second best in the series. Though the far from perfect dark last film of the trilogy, following Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Matt Reeves’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), has heavy-handed spots throughout and is somewhat sappy, nevertheless it glides through them with an involving story, great acting from its star Andy Serkis, fine special effects, a rousing musical score by Michael Giacchino and solid action sequences. Matt Reeves (“Let Me In “/”Cloverfield”) directs this high-concept ninth franchise film as a noteworthy reworking of the others. The chief writer is Mark Bomback. The epic is set 15 years after the outbreak of a civilization-killing Simian Flu and the experiment that gave rise to smart talking apes. The war between the apes and humans over a deadly virus that acted as a plague on humans has the humans badly beaten. The simians are living in their undetected waterfall hideout where they are led by their Moses-like leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). He tells us the ape fights only for survival while the humans fight for all kinds of reasons, some of which are uncivilized. Over time the apes have greatly evolved and have become increasingly more intelligent. But a fanatical shaven-headed soldier, who evokes reminders of Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now,” the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), refuses peace offers from the apes and relentlessly tracks them down. The Colonel, after locating Caesar’s hideout, in a senseless attack, has his army sneak into the hideout to murder Caesar’s wife and child in cold blood. Caesar now agonizes that he wants vengeance. He sends his ape followers onto a new safe location, away from his Sierra-Nevada, California site, while he seeks revenge against the Colonel with his compassionate ethical adviser, the orangutan second-in-command, Maurice (Karen Konoval), and the loyal Rocket (Terry Notary), as they track down the Colonel at his military base. Along the way Caesar picks up the comical former zoo monkey called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) and an orphaned mute girl Nova (Amiah Miller) that the apes act as protectors to. The Colonel has forcibly recruited an army of simians from the deceased human-hating Koba (Toby Kebbell), seen only in Caesar’s nightmares, whose captured ape army are insultingly nicknamed “donkeys” by their human masters and made to do the dirty work and enforce the camp’s sadistic orders. Meanwhile some of Caesar’s tribe has been captured and harshly imprisoned, and are made to do forced labor (bringing back memories of concentration camps). In a memorable scene, the Colonel confronts Caesar and explains his hatred for the apes and shock at how intelligent is Caesar. It all leads to the thrilling final prison-break combat scene organized by the imprisoned Caesar and further facilitated by Mother Nature, as both the apes and humans fight for survival.

REVIEWED ON 7/14/2017 GRADE: B     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/