The final trailer for Matt Reeves’ third installment into the revived Planet of the Apes franchise dropped earlier today and it’s nothing to sleep on. With wintry visuals and magnetizing performances from Woody Harrelson and Andy Serkis, the new War for the Planet of the Apes trailer shows how the film is on track to be one of the best movie trilogies of this decade.
Several years ago, walking into the theatre I had no expectations for the first movie that kicked off the rebooted franchise. Now I’m crying that Serkis needs to be nominated for an Oscar for his excellent motion capture performance as Caesar.
While we get more of the same gun totting, grenade throwing ape bad-assery, the trailer features a better look at the wayward blonde child played by young actress Amiah Miller (Lights Out). Nova gets picked up by Caesar and the crew who appear to take pity on the human. My guess is that, narratively, she’s there to appeal to Caesar’s softer, human loving side–a flaw that got him in big trouble with his radical ape brother Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Caesar’s baby mama Cornelia takes interest in the girl, uttering “Who is child?…but she was you.”
She could be referring to Caesar’s upbringing, drawing parallels to how he lost his mother to humans and was taken in by generous strangers. It’s a beautiful mirror to his origin. Nova most likely lost her family to apes in the war only to be taken in by apes.
While a fourth film is rumored to be in the works, I can’t help but wonder if Caesar will die. The latest tag line for the film ominously calls for us to ‘Witness the End’. In the last movie there was a fake out but was it more foreshadowing? To raise the stakes will his life be put on the line in War? Will his inevitable face off with Harrelson’s philosophizing, war thirsty character be it for him?
In the trailer we also get more footage of a new ape ally, who happens to be quite possibly the cutest vest wearing ape in the Apes franchise. He is smol and must be protected. He’s played by the perpetually zany Steve Zahn, so that explains a lot. The scarred ape likely had a violent and traumatic run in with Alpha and Omega soldiers–the rebel human force fighting to stay abreast evolution.
A brand new poster released highlights the other apes that have switched sides, joining the humans. It isn’t exactly clear why they would want to join their oppressors but if history shows anything it’s that stranger things have happened. A few might be fighting their ape brothers of their own volition but in the poster you can see “Donkey” written on some of their backs in white paint. Maybe these apes were enslaved and forced to fight.
We also get a lot of war speechifying from Harrelson as the Colonel. The way the humans interact with the apes and how normalized it has become is also a win because we’ll be blessed with a glorious scene of Harrelson going ape on Caesar like a moody prison warden. He delivers the best line of the trailer with so much effortless douchebaggery: “You’re taking this all much too personally…So emotional.”
I’ll maintain that this is one of the best and most solid film trilogies in recent years. In an era of film where Hollywood rarely gets reboots right, it’s refreshing to see the growth of a revived franchise that has emerged as a dark horse in the blockbuster arena. Each installment has gotten progressively better.
Not only do I continue to be amazed by the sorcery that is the apes design, it’s also been compelling to follow how the apes have progressed as a species, their dialect and speech. I love how the first generation of apes that Caesar metaphorically fathered, including the fearless leader himself, still struggle to speak with proper syntax. As they each come into their own personhood and individuality it makes it that much harder to root for the home team.
War of the Planet of the Apes hits theatres July 14.