Director Matt Reeves’ chronicle of man making his last stand against intelligent simians moves from its triumphant theatrical release to ultra high-definition equipped home theaters in War for the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 139 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $24.99).
The emotionally exhausting story finds the talkative leader Caesar and his band of apes looking for respite against an aggressive group of soldiers led by the illusive Colonel (Woody Harrelson) and realizing war and not peace will only allow for the survival of his species.
Caesar (Andy Serkis returns in his motion-captured glory) takes it upon himself to stop the Colonel but is helped, against his wishes, by a small team of brethren including the chimps Rocket (Terry Notary) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and the wise orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval).
The group’s perilous and enlightening journey will expose viewers to tragic loss, new alliances and to witnessing an unwelcomed war of attrition.
It’s worth noting that the movie apes are now incredibly realistic looking and expressive, thanks to the work of computer-effects maestros at WETA Digital. Be forewarned, watching any one of the creatures die, many do perish including familiar friends, is a heartbreaking experience.
Also, the numerous nods to the original “Planet of the Apes” film series made this simian sympathetic fan very happy throughout, despite the depressing pall cast over the entire effort.
4K UHD in action: The digital transfer’s upscale from 2K sources would only make it slightly worthy of purchase in 4K if it were not for the ability to carefully scrutinize the digitally recreated apes in 2160p resolution.
Specifically, look for the water droplets on their matted down fur, scars on the ape bodies (with no hair covering), the fine hairs on the orangutan Maurice’s face, ape hair swaying in the wind, and snow accumulating on fur.
For the mighty Caesar, examine his permanent scowl and sneer; stained, splintered teeth; and bloodshot eyes.
The Dolby Atmos sound mix accentuates such surround sound moments as the explosive ending to the film and a massive snow avalanche as well as the subtle sounds of footsteps on a wooden floor, or an orangutan’s roars echoing in sewers.
Best extras: First, the 4K disc contains Mr. Reeves’ excellent commentary track covering plenty of technical and effects information.
Being the co-writer, he often offers a meticulous dissection of the plot tied to Caesar, this “Moses of the apes.”
He also discusses his inspirations for the film, such as watching “Spartacus,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Path of Glory” and studying the styles of directors Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa.
Move over to the included Blu-ray disc to find a 30-minute overview of the production with plenty of shots of the actors in motion-capture suits and information on the shooting locations, weapons, helmet slang and James Chinlund’s production design, all supplemented by interviews with cast and crew.
Finally, check out an almost 8-minute look at how Mr. Reeve’s and his team incorporated an homage to the original “Planet of the Apes” series, including using familiar ape and human names, signature dialogue and iconic images. Older fans will enjoy the generous supply of clips from the classic movies.