I rarely say this about a summer blockbuster, but “War for the Planet of the Apes” is a masterpiece. God knows I’ve been disappointed by sequels and reboots before; what’s more, the original “Planet of the Apes” still holds a special place in my heart. But this movie, once again directed by Matt Reeves, is a knockout from start to finish. While “Rise” and “Dawn” were solid films, they also had their weaknesses. “War”, on the other hand, is everything you would want from a finale and then some. In following the epic conclusion to Caesar’s journey, “War” offers excitement and resolution, as it should. The subject is the apes’ final showdown with humans, and it’s one hell of a showdown, vividly staged by Matt Reeves, with visual effects that held me spellbound, even after two movies full of impressive visuals. Many of the familiar characters get to take a final blow, and there are newcomers, notably Woody Harrelson who is sensational as a vicious colonel with an agenda of his own. But ultimately, this is about following Caesar to the end of his journey. And this is the part where I shower Andy Serkis with praise for his masterful performance, which belongs in history books. Serkis so embodies this character that it’s bittersweet to have to say goodbye. The movie gives him a fitting farewell in a scene that fans of the series will especially appreciate. I don’t know if we’ll ever see another “Planet of the Apes” movie after this, produced on such a grandiose scale with eye-popping visuals and a terrific score. Whatever one’s complaints, this trilogy has maintained its ability to dazzle us from start to finish. In Hollywood these days, that’s a rare gift.
★★★ Very good