When the nothing special 2001 remake of The Planet of the Apes came out, Salt Lake City radio talk show host Tom Barberry had this to say: "This last weekend I went to see a movie. There were apes in it. That's good enough for me." That must have been the attitude of the people who made War for the Planet of the Apes. It is good enough to watch, but it lacks the greatness of the two previous films, so it falls way below my expectations. What the two previous films have are great characters combined with great story. The third film in the trilogy feels more like a standard war film or a standard post apocalyptic thriller. If you substituted humans for apes in this film, the story wouldn't be that different. None of characters really drew me in, and the movie touches on several themes without really excelling at any of them.
However, there is enough in the movie to make it worth watching. We are introduced to a couple of new characters, one human and one chimp, both who have special characteristics. The virus that made apes smart, mutates and starts making some humans mute. And the villain is an army colonel, played by Woody Harrelson, who is intent on wiping out all the apes. His character is the most interesting in the movie, because from his perspective he is being completely logical; he is fighting for the survival of his species.
The ending gives us a Deus ex machina followed by an anticlimactic finish.
Given the this is the third movie in a trilogy, one might think that this is the finale film, but it really feels like they are setting us up for a sequel. All the events that have happened so far could lead up to the events that took place in the original Planet of the Apes film, and it seems like they are trying to stay loyal to the original story.
One detail in all three movies that is not very believable is that the forests of northern California are not the same as tropical jungles that apes would need to live in to survive. Apes depend upon a diet heavy in fruit and the films never address how the apes sustain themselves.
Rating: * * *