War for the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review: Hail, Caesar and the Film Crew!

War for the Planet of the Apes works as both the end of a trilogy or the continuation of the franchise, depending on what happens next.
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Taking place 15 years after the events of Rise and the release of the Simian virus, which made apes smarter and killed many humans, and two years after "a distress call to a military base" was made in Dawn, humans and apes find themselves embroiled in a war in this thrilling third installment of the Apes reboot.

A devastating attack on their home causes the apes to flee, but they must go without their leader Caesar (Andy Serkis), who is consumed by anger due to the death of his family members.  He seeks revenge against the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), and against his wishes, he is joined by three close friends, orangutan Maurice, chimp Rocket, and gorilla Luca.  Along the way, a mute female child, Nova (Amiah Miller), joins their party because Maurice's refuses to leave her behind.  They also meet Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who escaped from the zoo and talks very well, like Caesar.  When the humans are found, Caesar discovers his tribe has been captured and are being used as slave labor, and must find a way to free them. 

War for the Planet of the Apes offers an entertaining combination of action and drama.  Reeves and his team make the unbelievable believable.  The film has allusions to the Bible and other war films, some of which are a little too obvious and become a slight distraction.  The series mythology has expanded.  The virus has mutated and is believed to be causing human's minds to devolve, which is why Nova and others can't speak.  This change has also had a direct impact on The Colonel, which is what drives him into leading what he believes is a holy war for the survival of the human race.  This info helps flesh out the character, who initially comes off like a caricature. 

The authenticity of the characters is the film's great strength.  The actors playing apes, especially Serkis (who deserves a special award to recognize all his motion-capture work), are able to convey real emotions through the CGI wizardry, allowing audiences to empathize with the apes and their motivations.  They are more believable than human counterparts in some blockbusters.       

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1.  The film has limited color palette, but the hues are strong as seem in the lush greenery.  The whites are bright, as seen in the snow, and blacks are inky.  There's amazing texture detail in both the real objects and the CGI, which blend very well together. A great example is the snow clumped in the apes fur. There's as much depth within a frame as intended.

The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and delivers an immersive experience.  At the first battle sequence, gun fire and explosions erupt throughout the surrounds and rumble in the subwoofer.  Heavy horse hooves and the whistling of arrows and spears move across channels.  Dialogue and ape grunts are always clear.  Ambiance immerses the viewer in the different setting and sounds are well positioned across the soundscape, contributing to a sense of space.

The Special Features include an informative audio commentary by returning director/co-writer Matt Reeves, a longtime fan of the franchise.  All the video features are in HD.   Deleted Scenes (23 min) - 10 scenes with optional director's commentary. It's really cool to see the scenes before the effects was completed to better appreciate the talents of the actors and digital artists involved. Waging War for the Planet of the Apes (30 min) - A look at the making of the film covering direction, writer, cast, the Canadian exterior location, costumes, opening and closing battle sequences, production design and sets

All About Caesar (13 min) - Explores the work of Serkis in bringing the character to life on screen. WETA: Pushing Boundaries (11 min) - How the team created the character and setting effects.  Music for Apes (6 min) - Reeves and composer Michael Giacchino talk with percussionist Emil Richards, who worked on all the films.  Apes: The Meaning of It All (20 min) - An overview of the franchise with a heavy focus on the early films.  The Apes Saga: An Homage (8 min) - Easter eggs and references in modern trilogy to past films.

War for the Planet of the Apes works as both the end of a trilogy or the continuation of the franchise, depending on what happens next.  It's been a pleasure to watch this world and the characters evolve over three films, but it stand on its own in telling this story.  The Blu-ray offers an impressive high-def experience and plenty of extras for those curious about how the film was made.

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