War for the Planet of the Apes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

The Great Ape Escape!

Several years following the events from DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes suffer a devastating attack.  Against his own principals, Caesar along with a few of his most trusted apes set out on a vengeance mission, which leads to a greater purpose. Sometimes overly sentimental and stretched a bit too long, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES eventually finds its footing and delivers a strong conclusion for fans of the new trilogy.

Woody Harrelson in War for the Planet of the Apes

It was 1968 when a planet of apes first came to the big screen.  It was truly a ground breaking piece of science fiction that not only dealt with bigger human issues in society but also was wildly entertaining.  The most recent trilogy shows what exactly happens to get to the point where we discover that apes have taken over the world.  The third film in the new series, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, ties in nicely to that original version, PLANET OF THE APES.  No, it doesn’t bring us up to that exact timeline with the Statue of Liberty and Charlton Heston screaming, “You blew it up!”  But the film gives understanding and enough explanation that the audience can easily fill in the pieces.  I apologize for spoiling for all those who haven’t seen the original nor have heard the iconic lines muttered. I think there is a statute of limitations that has expired on a film that came out fifty years ago.   In the same way that “I am your father” has no impact on newcomers to the Star Wars universe, the very idea of making this prequel trilogy is one huge spoiler to the 1968 film’s conclusion. But I digress.

Through snowy, rocky terrain on horseback, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES has an almost western quality.  While interesting, the film moves a bit too slowly, picking up emotional pieces and hanging on them longer than necessary.  The cinematography is gorgeous and director Matt Reeves has a clear vision of the material, but the extreme closeups and slow pacing stretches the emotion to overly sentimental rather than allowing it to breath naturally.  The intended tension always feels loose in the elongated scenes, which could have easily tighten up and help fix that pesky two-hour and twenty-minute runtime. Breaking up the dire need for survival with a bit of tragic comic relief is a new ape born in zoo captivity, who believes his name is Bad Ape played by Steve Zahn. While this character works some of the time, the ending is what truly energizes the overall sadness and pain of the story. I almost heard THE GREAT ESCAPE theme song playing in my head as a bunch of enslaved apes perform an exciting and dangerous prison escape.

Nevertheless, the apes are magnificent and the performances, particularly by the phenomenal Andy Serkis, are incredible. As a mark in how far technology has come, the CGI and motion capture work from Andy Serkis as Caesar, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the poster child of what can be achieved. The apes have heart and personality like any human character.  They are as real as they can possibly be. So much so that it can be hard to stomach at times because it feels as though we are watching live animal cruelty. We are drawn to them, we want them to succeed against our own kind.  Woody Harrelson as the Colonel leading the army of humans has actions that are horrifying, but his motivations have merit in a grand scope for his desire to save humanity. The complexity of these films to not stray too close in making a basic good guy vs. bad guy story is difficult and deserves credit for keeping within the grey areas of conflict.

Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes

While the film has a lot of problems involving length and forcing emotion, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is still al masterfully achievement with greater themes about humanity through the eyes and leadership of the apes. Paralleling our own desires to live and love, their story is the underdog story that we can understand.  Perhaps it’s because I feel conflict that they are fighting humans or that I simply don’t like animals being hurt, but while I respect them, there is a disconnect that always pulls me back in these Ape films. Perhaps it’s a compliment to how real the apes look that the visual image of their pain is difficult to view on screen. However, If you are a fan of the series, I have no doubt your fandom will continue with this compelling conclusion.


Video:  After watching all three of the new Apes films on 4K, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES has the best transfer, but not by much.  If DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was a slight improvement over RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, then the same can be said for War over Dawn.  There are minor improvements in detail and color depth and there are some scenes that stand out, most of which feature a sunny setting or water.  I will say that the apes look better this time around and I noticed more detail in their hair and clothing.  WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES does look good on 4K and it’s easily the best looking Apes film of the trilogy.

Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is a very nice upgrade over the DTS track included on the Blu-ray.  This is a booming track that will give your surround channels a workout.

This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.

The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does come with a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:

Commentary by Matt Reeves: I enjoy his commentaries because he’s clearly passionate about the Apes films and he seems to enjoy talking about them.  He gives a good commentary and covers just about every aspect of the film.

Deleted Scenes (23:03): Some of these are actually pretty decent and I was glad Mat Reeves provided a commentary on them so I could understand why they were cut.

The Apes Saga: An Homage (7:48): This is clearly the highlight of all the special features and it compares scenes from the new trilogy to scenes from the older films and how the directors paid tribute to the early films.

Waging War for the Planet of the Apes (29:38): This is kind of a recap of the series combined with a making-of overview.  It features a lot of behind the scenes looks at Andy Serkis and also a lot of movie scenes.

All About Caesar (12:40): This tracks Caesar’s rise from DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES to the end of WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.

WETA: Pushing Boundaries (12:40): This is another featurette focused on the special effects, specifically Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Music For Apes (6:20): This focuses on the music in the film (obviously).

Apes: The Meaning of it All (20:15): This is a recap and exploration of all the apes films and what they mean to the actors and crew involved.

Click 4K Ultra HD to read more of our 4K reviews.  And you can also follow us on Instagram (@flix66pics) to see previews of our upcoming 4K reviews and more pics of the packaging.


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