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War for the Planet of the Apes is masterful, proving not to be a worthy action film in the post- Mad Max: Fury Road era, but perhaps one of the bleakest summer blockbusters ever made. The film relates to classic sci-fi themes of power, man’s nature, and the nature of evolution, blended with characters that are complex and compelling. It’s a visual masterwork, combining some of the most photorealistic CGI ever put to screen with gorgeous cinematography, crafting a stirring epic where each frame feels meticulously crafted.

With the war between humans and apes raging, Caesar (Andy Serkis) seeks vengeance against a ruthless human known as “The Colonel” (Woody Harrelson) following a tragic assault on his family. Serkis has once again brought an Oscar worthy performance to the character of Caesar, bringing an emotional weight rarely seen in any film, blockbuster or otherwise, to the role. Harrelson is chilling as a neo-Nazi inspired leader, who’s antics might feel out of place if they weren’t so raw and genuine.

It’s hard to put War for the Planet of the Apes in the category of a traditional franchise film; there’s nothing safe about the series, and the amount of dedication and depth brought to a film shows the best of what science fiction can be- a mirror to our own world. It’s emotional, beautifully shot, and wraps up a great series with a shocking, stirring, and ultimately fulfilling final chapter. Grade: A