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 a 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.
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 theatrically released in the United States on July 14, 2017, by 20th Century Fox. The film has grossed over $433 million and received critical praise, with many reviewers highlighting the acting (particularly Serkis), visual effects, story, musical score, action sequences and direction.
Two years after the U.S. military was called to fight off an increasingly intelligent and dangerous tribe of apes, starting a devastating war between the two species, the apes' clan, led by the chimpanzee Caesar, are attacked in the woods by a rogue paramilitary faction known as Alpha-Omega, led by a mysterious Colonel. Alpha-Omega also has in its service apes they call "donkeys" that had previously followed Koba, a maniacal, human-hating bonobo who led a failed coup against Caesar and started the war after leading an vengeful attack against human survivors in San Francisco. During the attack, the Alpha-Omega soldiers are met by heavy ape resistance, and four soldiers, including a "donkey" gorilla named Red, are captured by the apes. Caesar arrives and orders the human soldiers to be released, with a message to the Colonel that he did not start the war and he killed Koba for doing so, and that he desires peace between the humans and apes. Caesar, out of spite, orders that Red is to be imprisoned but he escapes, injuring albino gorilla Winter.
Soon after, Caesar's son, Blue Eyes, and his lieutenant Rocket return from a journey to find a safe haven for the apes. They report that they have found a place across the desert that is perfect for the clan. Winter, still frightened from the soldiers' attack, wants to leave immediately, but Caesar does not think they are prepared to leave so soon. That night, a group of Alpha-Omega soldiers, led by the Colonel, infiltrates the apes' home behind a waterfall. The apes discover their presence and kill them all except the Colonel, whom Caeser encounters preparing to escape. Discovering that the Colonel has killed his wife Cornelia along with Blue Eyes, an enraged Caesar lunges at the Colonel but fails to prevent him from escaping out of the waterfall. Upon discovering that Winter has disappeared, Luca, a gorilla and Caesar's secondary lieutenant, believes that he has betrayed them out of cowardice.
Leaving his younger son Cornelius in the care of Blue Eyes' mate Lake, Caesar departs to exact revenge on the Colonel for the deaths of his wife and oldest son. He is accompanied by Maurice, a orangutan and Caesar's adviser, Luca, and Rocket, while the other apes head for the desert. During their journey, the apes enter an abandoned village, encounter a soldier, and kill him. Caesar, Maurice, Luca, and Rocket search the dead soldier's home. Maurice discovers the soldier's daughter who is apparently unable to speak. Maurice befriends and adopts the girl, giving her a small rag doll.
Along the way, Caesar's party encounters Winter in an Alpha-Omega camp on the beach where he has volunteered to become a "donkey" for the soldiers in return for sparing his life. He tells Caesar's group that the Colonel has departed for a location referred to as the "border." Winter tries to call out to the Alpha-Omega soldiers to save him, but Caesar and the others struggle to keep him quiet. While restraining Winter, Caesar unintentionally smothers and kills him. Caesar begins to worry that he is becoming like Koba by killing his fellow apes and seeking revenge. While following the soldiers to the border, they discover some soldiers who have been shot and left for dead. Their examination of a soldier who survived reveals that he, like the girl, cannot speak. At the soldier's urging, Caesar mercifully kills him. Later the group encounters Bad Ape, a reclusive chimpanzee who lived in the Sierra Zoo before the Simian Flu pandemic. Bad Ape reveals that the human soldiers are encamped at the border and hesitantly agrees to lead them there.
When the group arrives at the border, they see hundreds of apes held captive inside a former quarantine facility. While getting a closer look, Luca is killed protecting Caesar from an Alpha-Omega patrol, angering Caesar and causing him to proceed alone. Caesar discovers the rest of his ape clan has been captured, and are being forced to build a wall with no food or water; he is captured by Red. The Colonel reveals to Caesar that the Simian Flu virus has mutated and now causes humans who survived the original strain to become mute, which he believes is a sign of devolution and regression to a primitive state. Caesar deduces that the Colonel is barricading himself in the facility to fend off remnants of the U.S. Army from the north who are coming to execute him because he favors massacring any infected humans, including his own son, to stop the spread of the virus. Caesar is commended by the Colonel for his intelligence, and the Colonel explains that he is fighting a "holy war" for humanity's survival.
While Caesar is tortured with starvation, the mute girl, whom Maurice names Nova, sneaks into the facility to give Caesar food, water, and her rag doll (originally given to her by Maurice). To prevent Nova from being discovered, Rocket allows himself to be captured as a diversion. The next day, the Colonel comes to see if Caesar is still alive, and confiscates Nova's doll upon discovering it. 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 northern army. Caesar reaches the Colonel and prepares to kill him, but discovers that Nova's doll has infected him with the mutated virus, rendering him unable to speak. Caesar spares the Colonel and watches as he uses his pistol to commit suicide, rather than regressing to a primitive state.
During the battle between Alpha-Omega and the northern army, the escaping apes come under fire from Alpha-Omega. Caesar attempts to attack Alpha-Omega forces from behind, but is shot with a crossbow by Preacher, one of the Alpha-Omega soldiers he had previously set free. In an act of redemption, Red saves Caesar's life by killing Preacher with a grenade launcher, and is executed by an Alpha-Omega superior as a result. Caesar blows up a large fuel tank, causing a cascade of explosions which destroys the Alpha-Omega facility, allowing the northern army to win the battle. However, the army is subsequently devastated 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. Maurice then speaks, telling the dying Caesar that Cornelius will know who his father was, what he stood for and what he did to protect the apes. Caesar then slowly and silently succumbs to his wounds, dying peacefully while Maurice mourns his passing as the other apes look on.
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 the third film, with Reeves returning to direct and co-write along with Bomback, and Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver serving as producers. 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.'" In May 2015, the title was first given as War of the Planet of the Apes.
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.
In interviews for Dawn, Reeves talked 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."
Toby Kebbell, who portrayed Koba in Dawn, had expressed interest in reprising his role or performing as other characters. 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."
In August 2015, Deadline reported that Gabriel Chavarria had been cast as one of the humans in the film. In September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Woody Harrelson had been cast as the film's antagonist, and that Chavarria's role was supporting. In October 2015, TheWrap reported that Steve Zahn was cast as a new ape in the film, which had been retitled as War for the Planet of the Apes. It was also announced that 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, while Aleks Paunovic and Sara Canning were cast as new apes.
Principal photography on the film began on October 14, 2015 in the Lower Mainland in Vancouver, under the working title Hidden Fortress. Filming was expected to take place there until early March 2016. Parts of the film were expected to shoot for up to five days in the Kananaskis in late January and early February. In March, Serkis confirmed that he had finished shooting his portions.
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."
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 pretensions toward godhood. Reeves has compared their relationship to the dynamic between Alec Guinness's British Commander and Sessue Hayakawa's prison camp Colonel in Bridge on the River Kwai. Another comparison is in Caesar's journey to find the Colonel, flanked by a posse of close friends – a situation Reeves explicitly tied to Clint Eastwood's war-weary soldier in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Influences from the film Apocalypse Now, notably Harrelson's character and his Alpha-Omega faction being similar to Colonel Kurtz's renegade army, were also noted by several journalists. Harrelson has also acknowledged the similarities and inspiration.
On October 17, 2015, it was confirmed that Michael Giacchino, the composer and writer of the soundtrack for Dawn, would return to compose War's score. The soundtrack was digitally released to iTunes and Amazon on July 7, 2017, and in its physical form by Sony Masterworks on July 21, 2017.
All music composed by Michael Giacchino.
|1.||"Apes’ Past is Prologue"||10:53|
|2.||"Assault of the Earth"||5:29|
|4.||"The Posse Polonaise"||1:39|
|5.||"The Bad Ape Bagatelle"||1:13|
|6.||"Don’t Luca Now"||3:53|
|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|
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. The footage aired during The Walking Dead on AMC. The announcement allowed winners to wear a performance-capture suit and appear in a scene as an ape. The announcement was released on 20th Century Fox's official YouTube page later the same day.
Serkis has also mentioned that the film would be accompanied by a video game, for which he performed motion capture. Titled Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, the game is set for release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in fall 2017.
As of September 17, 2017[update], War for the Planet of the Apes has grossed $145.8 million in the United States and Canada and $287.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $433.7 million, against a production budget of $150 million.
In North America, the film was projected to gross $50–60 million in its opening weekend, 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. War was closely monitored by analysts while the summer was witnessing a decline in ticket sales, a situation that they blamed on franchise fatigue for an overabundance of sequels and reboots (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). The film grossed $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 with a 22% drop from Dawn's $72.6 million debut. 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. In its third weekend, the film made $10.5 million (dropping another 49.9%), finishing 6th at the box office. It was lower than the third weeks of both Rise ($16.1 million) and Dawn ($16.8 million).
Outside North America, War for the Planet of the Apes is receiving 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 smaller Asian markets over-perform, as they have for recent tent poles. The film ended up having an international debut of $44.2 million, including $9.27 million in the United Kingdom.
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. On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93%, based on 266 reviews, with a rating average of 8.1/10. 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." On review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, the same score earned by its two immediate predecessors.
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." In October 2016, it was announced that a fourth Planet of the Apes film is being planned.