War for the Planet of the Apes

Last updated on 25 July 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes is a 2017 American science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback and Reeves. A sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), it is the third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot series. The film stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn, and follows the confrontation between the apes, led by Caesar, and the humans for control of Earth. Like its predecessor, its premise shares several similarities to the fifth film in the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but it is not a direct remake of that film.

Principal photography began on October 14, 2015, in Vancouver. War for the Planet of the Apes premiered in New York City on July 10, 2017 and was released in the United States on July 14, 2017, by 20th Century Fox.[6] The film has grossed over $175 million and received critical praise, with many critics highlighting the acting (particularly Serkis), story, musical score, action sequences and direction, and some calling it one of the strongest-ever conclusions to a film trilogy.[7]

War for the Planet of the Apes poster.jpg
Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.


Two years after the U.S. military was called to fight off an increasingly intelligent and dangerous army of apes, the apes' clan, led by the chimpanzee Caesar, is attacked in the woods by a rogue paramilitary faction known as Alpha-Omega. AO also has in its service apes they call "Donkeys" that had previously followed Koba, a human-hating bonobo who led a failed coup against Caesar. During the attack, the AO militants are met by heavy ape resistance, and several soldiers, including the gorilla Red, are captured and taken to a secret base inside a cave which is hidden by a waterfall. Caesar arrives and reveals that to the prisoners that it was not he who started the war, and that now he only fights to protect his family and the rest of the apes. Caesar then learns from the prisoners that Alpha-Omega follows the leadership of a ruthless Colonel. Caesar orders that Red be locked up for his crimes, but releases all the prisoners as a peace offering to Alpha-Omega. However, before he can be imprisoned, Red escapes, injuring an albino gorilla named Winter. Caesar then makes plans to relocate the clan across the desert, not wanting to suffer any more ape casualties. The night before their journey, Alpha-Omega infiltrates the apes' base and the Colonel kills Caesar's wife, Cornelia, and their elder son, Blue Eyes. During the fighting, Winter betrays Caesar, and escapes to fight with Alpha-Omega.

Leaving his younger son, Cornelius, in the care of Blue Eyes' mate, Lake, Caesar departs to exact revenge on the Colonel. He is accompanied by Maurice the orangutan, Luca the gorilla and Rocket the chimpanzee, while the other apes head for the desert. During the journey, Caesar's party encounters Winter in an Alpha-Omega camp and learn that the Colonel has departed for a location called the "border". Caesar inadvertently kills Winter, which causes him to worry that he is becoming like Koba.

During their journey, they encounter a man living in an abandoned village and kill him when he reaches for his rifle. After discovering his daughter, who is apparently unable to speak, Maurice insists that they take her with them. Further along, they discover some Alpha-Omega soldiers who have been shot and abandoned. Their examination of a survivor reveals that he, like the girl, cannot speak. Later the group meets Bad Ape, a chimpanzee hermit who lived in the Sierra Zoo before the Simian Flu pandemic. Bad Ape directs them to the border, a former weapons depot that was turned into a quarantine facility when the virus first began to spread.

When the group arrives at the border facility, Luca is killed protecting Caesar from an Alpha-Omega patrol, motivating Caesar to proceed alone. However, he is captured by Red after discovering that the rest of his ape clan had been captured, and witnessing them being forced to build a wall with no food or water. The Colonel reveals to Caesar that the Simian Flu virus has mutated and now causes humans who survived the original strain to devolve, becoming mute and regress back to a primitive state, and that he is barricading himself in the facility to fend off remnants of the U.S. military, who are coming to defeat him because he favors killing any infected humans – including his own son – to stop the spread of the virus.

While Caesar is tortured with starvation, the mute girl, whom Maurice names Nova, sneaks into the facility to give him food and water. To prevent her from being discovered, Rocket allows himself to be captured as a diversion. Together, Caesar and Rocket are able to work out a means of escape via an underground tunnel that leads out of the facility. Maurice and Bad Ape use the tunnel to rescue the apes, and Caesar orders the others to escape while he goes to confront the Colonel. As the facility comes under attack by the rival military, Caesar reaches the Colonel, but realizes that he has been infected by the mutated virus. Caesar ultimately spares the Colonel, who commits suicide rather than exist as an infected primitive.

During the battle between Alpha-Omega and the military, the escaping apes come under fire from Alpha-Omega. Caesar attempts to attack Alpha-Omega from behind, but is shot with a crossbow by Preacher, one of the AO militants he had previously set free. Red saves Caesar's life by killing Preacher, and is killed by Alpha-Omega as a result. Caesar blows up the facility's fuel supplies, causing a cascading explosion which wipes out Alpha-Omega and allows the military to win the battle. However, the military is subsequently buried and wiped out by an avalanche, which Caesar and the other apes (carrying Nova) survive by climbing nearby trees.

The remaining apes depart the facility and cross the desert to find an oasis. While the other apes joyously celebrate their new home, Maurice discovers Caesar's wound, and before Caesar dies from his wound, Maurice assures Caesar that Cornelius will know who his father was, what he stood for, and what he did for the apes.



  • Andy Serkis as Caesar, an intelligent common chimpanzee who is leader to a tribe of genetically enhanced apes.[8]
  • Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a common chimpanzee who lived in a zoo before the Simian Flu outbreak and was a hermit before joining Caesar's group.[9][10]
  • Karin Konoval as Maurice, a wise and benevolent Bornean orangutan who is Caesar's adviser.[8]
  • Terry Notary as Rocket, a common chimpanzee who is Caesar's brother-figure.[11]
  • Ty Olsson as Red, a Western lowland gorilla who was once a follower of Koba, now serving the Colonel to defeat Caesar. Olsson previously played Chief Hamill in Rise.
  • Michael Adamthwaite as Luca, a Western lowland gorilla in Caesar's tribe.
  • Toby Kebbell reprises his role as Koba from Dawn, appearing in Caesar's hallucinations.
  • Judy Greer as Cornelia, Caesar's wife.[8]
  • Sara Canning as Lake, a common chimpanzee in Caesar's tribe, who's also [12] Blue Eyes' mate and later Cornelius's caretaker.
  • Max Lloyd-Jones as Blue Eyes, Caesar and Cornelia's oldest son.[13]
  • Devyn Dalton as Cornelius, Caesar and Cornelia's youngest son and Blue Eyes's younger brother. Dalton previously played Cornelia in Rise.
  • Aleks Paunovic as Winter, an albino Western lowland gorilla in Caesar's tribe who sided with the Colonel out of fear.[14]


  • Woody Harrelson as The Colonel, the iron-fisted leader of the paramilitary organization Alpha-Omega who is obsessed with wiping out Caesar and his tribe to preserve his people's role as the dominant species.[15][16]
  • Amiah Miller as Nova, a bold and kind mute orphan whom Maurice adopts as his daughter.[17][18]
  • Gabriel Chavarria as Preacher, a human soldier working under the Colonel in Alpha-Omega.[19]



War for the Planet of the Apes in New York Comic Con 2016.jpg
Matt Reeves, Andy Serkis and Dylan Clark at New York Comic-Con 2016 for the War for the Planet of the Apes panel

After seeing his cut of Dawn, 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment signed Matt Reeves to return as director for a third installment of the reboot series. In January 2014, the studio announced a third installment with Reeves returning to direct and co-write along with Bomback, and Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver serving as producers.[20][21] During an interview in mid-November 2014 with MTV, Andy Serkis said they did not know the next film's setting. "...It could be five years after the event. It could be the night after the events of where we left 'Dawn.'"[22] In May 2015, the title was first given as War of the Planet of the Apes.[23]

When director Reeves and screenwriter Bomback came on board to helm Dawn, the film already had a release date, which led to an accelerated production schedule. However, with the third installment, Fox wanted to give the duo plenty of time to write and make the film. Taking advantage of this, the two bonded with each other more than before.[24]

In interviews for Dawn, Reeves talked a bit about the inevitable war Caesar would have with the humans: "As this story continues, we know that war is not avoided by the end of Dawn. That is going to take us into the world of what he is grappling with. Where he is going to be thrust into circumstances that he never, ever wanted to deal with, and was hoping he could avoid. And now he is right in the middle of it. The things that happen in that story test him in huge ways, in the ways in which his relationship with Koba haunts him deeply. It’s going to be an epic story. I think you’ve probably read that I sort of described it where in the first film was very much about his rise from humble beginnings to being a revolutionary. The second movie was about having to rise to the challenge of being a great leader in the most difficult of times. This is going to be the story that is going to cement his status as a seminal figure in ape history, and sort of leads to an almost biblical status. He is going to become like a mythic ape figure, like Moses."[25]

Toby Kebbell, who portrayed Koba in Dawn, has expressed interest in reprising his role or performing as other characters.[26] Plans to include Koba in a larger role in the film were abandoned early, with Bomback saying, "If you stayed until the very end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you hear Koba’s breathing. We did that to give us a tiny crack of a possibility that we could revive Koba if we wanted to. Very early on in spitballing, we realized there was nothing more to do with Koba – certainly nothing that would exceed what he had done in the last story. But we knew we wanted to keep him alive as an idea. In playing out the reality of what happened at the end of the last film, Caesar would be traumatized by having to kill his brother. That would have resonance, and we wanted to make sure that didn’t get lost. So the answer was that we could go inside Caesar’s mind at this point and revisit Koba that way."[27]


In August 2015, Deadline reported that Gabriel Chavarria was cast as one of the humans in the film.[28] In September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Woody Harrelson had been cast as the film's antagonist, and that Chavarria's role was small.[15] In October 2015, TheWrap reported that Steve Zahn was cast as a new ape in the film, retitled as War for the Planet of the Apes.[9] It was also announced that young actress Amiah Miller was cast as one of the film's humans, with Judy Greer and Karin Konoval reprising their roles as Cornelia and Maurice,[8][17] while Aleks Paunovic and Sara Canning were cast as the new apes.[14][12]


Principal photography on the film began on October 14, 2015, in the Lower Mainland in Vancouver, under the working title Hidden Fortress.[29][30] Filming was expected to take place there until early March 2016.[31] Parts of the film were expected to shoot for up to five days in the Kananaskis in late January and early February.[32] In March, Serkis confirmed that he had finished shooting his portions.[33]

Visual effects

As with Rise and Dawn, the visual effects for War were created by Weta Digital; the apes were created with a mixture of motion-capture and CGI key-frame animation, as they were performed in motion-capture technology and animated in CGI.


At New York Comic-Con 2016, Reeves explained that he and Bomback were influenced by many films before writing. He said, "One of the first things that Mark and I did because we had just finished Dawn was that we decided to watch a million movies. We decided to do what people fantasize what Hollywood screenwriters get to do but no one actually does. We got Fox to give us a theater and we watched movie after movie. We watched every Planet of the Apes movie, war movies, westerns, Empire Strikes Back... We just thought, 'We have to pretend we have all the time in the world,' even though we had limited time. We got really inspired."[34]

Additionally, during production Reeves and Bomback sought broader inspirations from films like Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape. Feeling that there was a need to imbue Biblical themes and elements, they also watched Biblical epics like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments. The influences and inspirations were made evident in the relationship between Caesar and Woody Harrelson's Colonel, a military leader with vague pretensions toward godhood, which Reeves compares their relationship to the dynamic between Alec Guinness's British Commander and Sessue Hayakawa prison camp Colonel in Bridge on the River Kwai. Another comparison is when Caesar sets off on a journey to find the Colonel, flanked by a posse of close friends – a situation Reeves explicitly ties to Clint Eastwood's war-weary soldier in The Outlaw Josey Wales.[24] Influences from the film Apocalypse Now, notably Woody Harrelson's character the Colonel and his Alpha-Omega faction being similar to Colonel Kurtz's renegade army, were also noted by several journalists.[35][36][37] Harrelson also acknowledged the similarities and inspiration.[38]


On October 17, 2015, it was confirmed that Michael Giacchino, the composer and writer of the soundtrack for Dawn, would return to compose the current film's score.[39] The soundtrack was digitally released to iTunes and Amazon on July 7, 2017[40], and it will be released in its physical form by Sony Masterworks on July 21, 2017.[41]

Track listing

All music composed by Michael Giacchino.

No. Title Length
1. "Apes’ Past is Prologue" 10:53
2. "Assault of the Earth" 5:29
3. "Exodus Wounds" 4:23
4. "The Posse Polonaise" 1:39
5. "The Bad Ape Bagatelle" 1:13
6. "Don’t Luca Now" 3:53
7. "Koba Dependent" 2:54
8. "The Ecstasy of the Bold" 1:57
9. "Apes Together Strong" 7:12
10. "A Tide in the Affairs of Apes" 5:31
11. "Planet of the Escapes" 2:42
12. "The Hating Game" 2:04
13. "A Man Named Suicide" 5:32
14. "More Red Than Alive" 2:41
15. "Migration" 2:03
16. "Paradise Found" 5:35
17. "End Credits" 9:30
Total length: 75:11


The film was initially set for a July 29, 2016, release. However, in January 2015, Fox postponed the film's release date to July 14, 2017.[42][6]


A special behind-the-scenes footage for the film was aired on TV on November 22, 2015, as part of a contest announcement presented by director Matt Reeves and Andy Serkis.[43] It was aired during The Walking Dead on AMC.[44][45] This announcement allows winners to wear a performance-capture suit and be in a scene as an ape.[46] On the same day, the announcement was later released on 20th Century Fox's official YouTube page.[47]

At a New York Comic Con special event on October 6, Reeves, Serkis and producer Dylan Clark debuted an exclusive look of the film.[48]

Serkis also mentioned that the film will be accompanied by a video game, for which he is performing motion capture.[49]


Box office

As of July 24, 2017, War for the Planet of the Apes has grossed $100.8 million in the United States and Canada and $77 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $177.9 million, against a production budget of $150 million.[5]

In North America, the film was projected to gross $50–60 million in its opening weekend,[50] however, given its acclaimed status and strong word-of-mouth, rival studios believed the film had the potential to debut as high as $70–80 million.[4][51][52] War was closely monitored by analysts as the summer was witnessing a decline in ticket sales due to the effect of an overabundance of sequels and reboots, as well as franchise fatigue (such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Transformers: The Last Knight and The Mummy), however box office analysts noted that well-reviewed films have tended to perform in-line with estimates (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming).[53][54][55] It made $5 million from Thursday night previews at 3,021 theaters, up 22% from the $4.1 million earned by its predecessor, and $22.1 million on its first day. It went on to debut to $56.3 million, topping the box office, albeit a 22% drop from Dawn's $72.6 million debut.[56][57] In its second weekend the film grossed $20.9 million (a drop of 62.9%, more than the 50.4% fall Dawn saw), finishing 4th at the box office.[58]

Outside North America, War for the Planet of the Apes will receive a scattered release in a span of three months (July–September). The film began its release in about a third of the marketplace on July 14, albeit only in two major markets, and was projected to have an opening of $50–60 million, with the potential to go higher if the smaller Asian markets over-perform as they have on recent tentpoles.[4] It ended up having and international debut of just $44.2 million, including $9.27 million in the United Kingdom.[59]

Critical response

War for the Planet of the Apes received praise for the performances of its cast (particularly Serkis), direction, musical score, visual effects, cinematography and morally complex storyline.[7] On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 211 reviews, with a rating average of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "War for the Planet of the Apes combines breathtaking special effects and a powerful, poignant narrative to conclude this rebooted trilogy on a powerful – and truly blockbuster – note."[60] On review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[61] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, the same score earned by its previous two predecessors.[56]


During an interview with MTV News in mid-November 2014, Andy Serkis talked about possible sequels: "It might be three films, it could be four. It could be five. Who knows? The journey will continue."[22] In October 2016, it was announced that a fourth Planet of the Apes film is being planned.[62][63]


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