A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that War for the Planet of the Apes, which is part of the long-running sci-fi/action movie series, is the third movie focusing on intelligent ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). It's heavy on fantasy violence, with guns and shooting, arrows, missiles, and explosions. Some bloody wounds are shown, though there's not much gore overall. Apes are imprisoned, hung on crosses, whipped, and forced to work. Characters die, and one character commits suicide off screen. Language is mild, with sparing use of "goddamn" and "Jesus Christ." The movie is very smart and subtly discusses issues of how fear can lead to problems like slavery and war. But Caesar isn't exactly a role model, since he chooses to seek revenge (though he does pay a price). Overall the movie is a great combination of exciting and thought provoking, worth enjoying as well as discussing.
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What's the story?
In WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the apes' intelligent leader, has just won the battle of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but more troops are coming. As Caesar ponders his options, his home is attacked by soldiers, with tragic results. Caesar decides to move his tribe to a new location, but thirst for revenge causes him to hit the road, seeking the colonel responsible for the attack. He's accompanied by Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). On the road, they meet a young girl (Amiah Miller), whose voice and mannerisms seem to have been affected by something. They also meet a zoo ape, called "Bad Ape" (Steve Zahn), who helps. Eventually, Caesar meets the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), but he must face his toughest challenges before everything ends.
Is it any good?
Director Matt Reeves follows the excellent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with this even more complex, darker, smarter sequel, which seems destined to resonate longer than a typical popcorn movie. War for the Planet of the Apes is thrilling, expertly made, and packs an emotional punch, especially thanks to canny motion-capture performances by Serkis and Zahn and a thrillingly layered human performance by Harrelson.
Skipping shaky-cam footage and lazy editing, Reeves' direction is razor-sharp, swift, and clear, even if it reverts to its true status as a popcorn movie every so often by lifting bits and pieces from Apocalypse Now and Star Wars. War for the Planet of the Apes wrestles with issues of slavery and war and their roots in fear, but it does so in a way that lets viewers reach their own conclusions. Its greatest trick is that it effectively places the audience's sympathies with the non-human characters, turning a light on the fatal flaws and destructive demeanors of humans. Even as viewers are exhilarated, they'll also find that the movie's substance sticks with them for awhile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Did you find yourself rooting for the apes over the humans? Both equally? How did you feel about this?
What does the movie have to say on the subject of racism? What about war? Do you agree?
How does this film compare with the rest of the titles in the franchise? How has it aged over the years?
- In theaters: July 14, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2017
- Cast: Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis
- Director: Matt Reeves
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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