War for the Planet of the Apes (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

October 23, 2017 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

With the myriad number of reboots and remakes, it’s a rare breed that actually manage to stand out from the crowd. In 2011, we were treated to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, somewhat of an offshoot (I think) of the 2001 remake with Mark Wahlberg. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I ever saw the 2001 version. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter. War for the Planet of the Apes brings about the third and some might say final installment of these films. Then again, if a movie makes money there’s really no reason to stop making them. If you can get past the revolving case (Franco in Rise, Jason Clarke in Dawn and Woody Harrelson in this one), you’re in for a treat. These aren’t the cheesy camp classics from the 70’s, rather they’re full of topical and incisive political ideals. It doesn’t take a genius to draw some parallels in this movie to what’s going on in the world. Politics aside, it’s also a great action film.

We find Caesar (Andy Serkis) who’s trying his best to locate a new home for he and his fellow apes. It’s believed he wants peace, but this changes when a ruthless Army colonel (Woody Harrelson) is seeking them out to destroy them. He wants to wipe out the Simian Flu that we learn, later, was the cause of his son’s death. As he sees it – no apes, no flu. Life goes on. After a brutal invasion of the apes’ camp, Caesar decides to track down the colonel and his men for some old-fashioned revenge. It’s then that Caesar realizes the breadth of the colonel’s influence as he’s imprisoned thousands of apes in what can only be described as a concentration camp. Caesar is likewise captured and things are looking grim. It’s come down to this: man vs ape. Who will prevail?

It’s hard to believe that the majority of the action that takes place on screen is done via motion capture and CGI. The apes look so lifelike, it’s easy to get them confused with actual primates. There’s a palpable tension and fear with this movie and the 140 minutes whiz by. Harrelson, one of the few human actors features on screen, gives a tour-de-force performance that might actually be one of the best of his career – and that’s saying something. Andy Serkis, one of the few who’s been in all three installments, really injects Caesar with passion and feeling. Yes, it’s motion capture, but I’d wager that Serkis is one of the few on the planet (pardon the pun) that could really make this work. This might be the best of the three installments and if it does end here, it’s a fitting ending. Just don’t expect the Statue of Liberty in this one.

Video: How’s it look?

A lot of people ask me “is there really a difference between Blu-ray and 4K?” My answer is “Yes, but it’s not enough that you should go out and buy a new 4K TV.” I might have to rethink that statement after watching the Blu-ray version of this film compared to it’s Ultra HD counterpart. By and large, the 2.40:1 HEVC 4K image rivals the Blu-ray. But there are some scenes, mainly along the beach, that are so breaktakingly detailed that I had to see if it looked that good on the Blu-ray. It didn’t. The HDR really does add a new layer of realism to some of these images. Obviously, most of the action and characters are the CGI primates and I was hard-pressed to see how they could be computer animated. Yes, it looks that good. I could go on and on, but trust me on this – it won’t disappoint.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The clap of thunder, the sound of a gun or the explosion of a wall – all of them sound amazing in this Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The opening sequence features an epic gunfight between the apes and humans – wow! What a way to start the film.  Vocals are rich and pure, Caesar’s booming, deep voice dominates the center channel with other vocals chiming in. Surrounds are present, used and with great effect. And, as expected, the atmospheric sound mix really brings everything together. A top notch effort here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by Matt Reeves – Ten total, but given the bloated running time of the film, these were wisely cut for pacing.
    • Graveyard
    • Turncoats
    • Barrier Wall
    • “I Owe You One”
    • “A Great Man”
    • “Do Not Lose Hope”
    • Snowfall
    • The Colonel’s Speech
    • Malcolm and the Dinosaurs
    • “I Am Like Koba”
  • Featurettes – The movie studios like to put these shorter featurettes in a section and call it a documentary. I’m not buying it. Each of these is what we’ve seen before, these features are broken down into more technical vingnettes.
    • Waging War for the Planet of the Apes
    • All About Caesar
    • WETA: Pushing Boundaries
    • Music for Apes
    • Apes: The Meaning of it All
    • The Apes Saga: An Homage
  • Concept Art Gallery
  • Audio Commentary – Director Matt Reeves gives a pretty insightful and fact-filled commentary track that checks all the boxes. He covers the film’s theme, casting and of course lauds constant praise upon Andy Serkis (and rightfully so). Fans of the film and of Reeves will enjoy this track.

The Bottom Line

There’s no denying that these new Apes films are, without a doubt, a real treat. Well made and even with an alternating “human” cast, they manage to entertain. This installment might be the best one yet, though part of me longs for the first one with James Franco. Still, no matter what your taste, this delivers the goods with top notch audio and video as well as enough supplements to warrant a purchase.

Disc Scores