It’s okay, you can be honest, we’re all friends here. Put your hand up if you wanted the Apes to win? Well, I must say I would tend to agree with you, given the evidence laid out in front of us here. It may well have been an error of monkey judgement that may have caused most of the problems this time around, but lest we forget, nobody’s perfect.
Minus James Franco (good or bad thing, you decide) this is the episode of the franchise that really introduces us the the Apes themselves. A good twenty minutes of the feature at the start of the film deals solely with the lives of these primates living in the mountains away from the city where they held a last stand of sorts at the culmination of the last film, separated by ‘that’ bridge, which makes a re-appearance here as a kind of symbol of a makeshift border between man and ape. Man (mainly in the form of Jason Clarke ahd his tema of intrepid explorers) has a need for electrical power, which is rapidly depleting. The only way to ensure its continuity, however, is to travel into ape territory to a dam that can be restarted with some engineering knowhow. Unsurprisingly Caesar and his community are not too keen to let humans into their territory to do anything, much less ensure the survival of a race that nearly wiped them out in the first place.
And this, essentially, is your lot. The film is little more than a study of trust and how far the apes have come in their evolution in being able to reason. Some are more able to reason than others, of course, a fact which makes this last more than ten minutes. If not for Koba (Toby Kebbell), then all the lights would be on and man and ape could have been stting down for dinner together quite amiably before the first act had finished.
But that wouldn’t have been any fun at all. In order to get your value for money out of this, then there needs to at least some kind of ruckus. If Andy Serkis doesn’t get to make Caesar look angry/thoughtful/merciful/dangerous then it really would have been an opportunity wasted. The effects and cgi are absolutely outstanding and you could easily just go and watch this project purely for how it looks, regardless of the plot (which perhaps is just as well).
Ironically, the apes seem a good deal more rounded, character-wise, than the humans they come into contact with and despite some heavy-hitters in the human acting department, with the likes of Clarke, Russell and seemingly blockbuster contracted Gary Oldman, they come off significantly less developed. No doubt this is entirely on purpose, of course, but it will possibly sway you too much into supporting one camp rather than the other, where you would probably be expecting to be able to fence-sit for the duration and shake your head at both camps at suitable moments.
In summary, a thrilling, entertaining summer blockbuster with outstanding effects but carrying a simple plot that may be the only thing that could underwhelm the audience.