Planet of the Apes may be the most undervalued franchise of all time, and the original series was nowhere near bereft of ideas by its fifth and final entry, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. However, it did lack execution. Tim Burton’s 2001 misfire is generally only praised for its faithfulness to the original makeup effects. It was 2011’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that heralded a new trilogy of superior science fiction that keeps improving with each movie.
The arrival of Matt Reeves as Dawn’s director really evolved the franchise’s creative direction, and War, which Reeves co-wrote, is a near perfect completion of the narrative arc of talking ape champion Caesar (Andy Serkis, the Olivier of motion capture, who at least deserves a special Oscar for all the digital characters he has helped bring to life). At war with a crazed military man (Woody Harrelson, channeling so much Kurtz it hurts), Caesar struggles to overcome his vengeful nature before he succumbs to it like his rival Koba.
Everything about this film—FX, voicework, comedy, battles—is a treat; the Easter eggs hidden for fans of the originals deepen an already noteworthy blockbuster experience. War is also the first of the new films to seem eminently rewatchable, a defining trait of Planet through Battle (the TV series, too).