The trailer seemed to suggest a lot of action-fighting. The reality was a different surprise.
I've seen every Planet of the Apes movie since the original -- with Charlton Heston back in the 1970s. The plot twist then, in its final scene, was riveting.
This new story line -- as the last of the current era episodes-- felt more like an epic exodus than the typical war movie that you'd expect. While I was initially put off by the costuming of the apes (I'm not sure if I thought it was too fake, or too real), the movie engaged me nonetheless.
The opening setup is that humankind has been devastated by a simian virus that rendered some of them mute, causing a de-evolution, and also caused death around the world. Is this the plat twist as a set to reintroduce -- or at the least, explain -- the original?
The apes led by Caesar are living in the woods, not looking for a fight; they just want to be left alone. Koba, the ape that previously wanted all out war with the humans is dead, though his followers fled Caesar and are serving the humans as workers, called donkeys.
But "The Colonel" (Woody Harrelson) is having none of this live an let live bit, and is relentlessly hunting the apes in search of Caesar and his deep-hidden hideout. He wants to wipe the apes out once and for all. His reasons are revealed much later in the film.
The script -- by Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver (the novel by Pierre Boulie) -- spends time revealing character flaws in Caesar, the Colonel, and others. There is treachery, betrayal, and some surprises in the end.
Amiah Miller is a mute girl the small band of four apes come across while on their own mission. They kill the -- we assume a soldier -- when he tries to shoot them first. Scavenging for useful items Morris the orangutan then finds the girl cuddled in her bed.
The writers go to great lengths to show us how much heart the apes have, as Morris understands that he can't take her on their quest, but tells Caesar he can't leave her either.
They don't however ever explain who the assumed soldier was to her, nor why she simply walked past the dead man with no more than momentary stop to look at him.
If you thought this would be two hours of warring and fighting, you'll be disappointed. The film is more about a long-brewing plot line and the individual and group efforts to survive.
It was engrossing and engaging, and director Matt Reeves kept it moving quickly: there was sweeping cinematography, tension, individual internal evolution, and endearing moments that never left me I bored. If it were a book it would be a page-turner.
So I have to give it 3 3/4 stars.