A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a whole piece up on Matt Reeves’ conclusion to the Planet of the Apes franchise when I heavily praised War for the Planet of the Apes. Now, as a follow up with it hitting theaters this week, it’s time to go a bit deeper. It’s one of the best reviewed films of the year so far, but can it contend with the big boys. Yes, today I’m going to be looking at the Oscar prospects for this sequel. Namely, does it actually stand anywhere near a realistic chance to contend for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards?
To reiterate, the movie takes place after the events of both Dawn of the Planet of the apes as well as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, obviously. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still leading the Apes, though he’s about to face his toughest challenge yet. Koba (Toby Kebbell) may be in the past, but a new human threat in The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is about to bring the bad ape out in Caesar. Once he suffers losses among his ranks, including some of those closest to him, he sets out on a revenge mission. That shortsighted tactic not only lands him in an ape prison camp run by The Colonel, but will put all of his apes in grave jeopardy. War is inevitable. Reeves again directs and co-writes with Mark Bamback here. Among the supporting cast, there’s returning players like Judy Greer, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, and more, while newcomers include Amiah Miller and Steve Zahn. The gorgeous cinematography is by Michael Seresin, while the top notch score comes from Michael Giacchino. To be sure, quality wise, this is excellent cinema, through and through.
Personally, while some are calling this the best film of the year to date, I can’t go that far. To be sure though, it’s undeniably strong stuff. Serkis continues to do amazing work, the CGI is flawless, and the emotions are all on point. My only issue is one that’s not really an issue, just a matter of personal preference. To me, there’s a slight Uncanny Valley situation at hand, as despite it being Motion Capture, I still know none of the apes are real. That takes away a little emotion. Most don’t have that issue, and I really never have it anywhere else, but because it’s so powerful in its storytelling, I notice it, for whatever reason. That’s just me.
Now, if we take away the technical categories like Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects, where does War for the Planet of the Apes stand? Unless the Academy suddenly falls for Andy Serkis and his motion capture work, Best Actor is a pipe dream. As for Best Picture, I really do think that’s the case as well. Sure, you could argue it’s the strongest blockbuster out, but we’re still waiting on Dunkirk, which could take that mantle. Then, there’s still the title matter of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, not to mention Blade Runner 2049. All this is to say that the competition will likely push it down from some of the initial awards buzz. It’s techs or bust, simply put.
I will quickly say that if the Academy does decide to finally do something for Serkis and perhaps give him a Special Oscar, like that specific prize was intended for, I’d be all about it. He wouldn’t crack my personal best performances of the year list and I don’t think the work is quite on the level of a nomination, but it certainly is a special achievement. This is something Oscar should do from time to time, with this sort of work or above and beyond voice work. Voters are quickly becoming more and more modern, so maybe it’ll wind up happening happen, if not this year, then in one soon?
Here also is how I would rank the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy:
3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
1. War for the Planet of the Apes
While I don’t think that War for the Planet of the Apes is Best Picture worthy, it’s still damn good stuff. This weekend, audiences are in for a treat. It’s a really good film, one that offers way more than a blockbuster usually does. Fans of the franchise will be delighted, that’s for sure. It’s a high point for the trilogy and likely to be one of the summer’s best. This is a movie to really look forward to seeing, if you weren’t already sold. Take it from me, even if you’re not huge on the franchise, it’s still top notch. You won’t regret investing yourself in this one…
Be sure to check out War for the Planet of the Apes, playing in theaters everywhere on Friday!