The first point to make about War for the Planet of the Apes is that it isn’t actually about a war. There are a couple of Skirmishes for the Planet of the Apes and one brief Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but the all-out humans-v-hairies conflict that the title promises is nowhere to be seen. And that’s one reason why the film, for all of its technical wizardry and daring solemnity, is a let-down.
To begin with, though, it looks as if it’s going to be a full-on war movie. The third film in the rebooted Apes series, War for the Planet of the Apes is set 15 years after a ‘simian flu’ wiped out most of the homo sapiens on Earth while boosting the brain power of our big-eared, long-armed cousins. Civilisation as we know it no longer exists, but a tribe of intelligent apes has established a comfortable forest encampment.
The tribe’s wise leader is the franchise’s hero, Caesar (Andy Serkis). Now married with children, and with some grey in his fur, he just wants to relax and work on his banana recipes. But then the encampment is raided by a human commando team, and it’s time for some guerrilla warfare (and indeed gorilla warfare) with lots of allusions to Vietnam: the screenwriters are particularly fond of the double meaning of ‘Kong’.