Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) returns to the director’s chair for War for the Planet of the Apes. Taking post-apocalyptic battle movies to a new level, it’s both high-energy action and emotional roller coast as you try to decide where your allegiances lie. For those concerned that it will fall into the trap of so many franchise sequels, don’t worry: strong characters, plot, and moral quandaries would make it successful even as a stand-alone film.

After a huge personal lose, ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) is torn between his duty to lead and protect the apes, and his thirst for revenge against the Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

A long journey to face off against the Colonel and his men leads to new discoveries and new challenges for everyone trying to survive in the new world.

The opening scenes are understated in a wonderful, almost vintage way. With a slow, quiet build up, Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014) draws viewers back into his world of intelligent primates. Moving from an eerie, almost silent forest to a battle for life and death, you’re immediately invested.

Characters on both sides of this ongoing conflict have been carefully crafted. As more is learned about each ape and human’s backstory, acts that seemed cruel become a little less black and white.

Steve Zahn joins the cast of this latest Apes film, adding some unusual comedy. While laughing may feel out of place at first, his physical comedy and quirky personality was conveniently placed to traverse slower plot points and make necessary connections between scenes. His caution and self-preservation held a juxtaposition to the gung-ho, ride or die attitudes of other characters.

For those who haven’t seen Rise or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently or at all, don’t worry too much about missing out. While the story definitely carries on and fans of the series will see familiar faces and make connections a little quicker, this film can still be enjoyed as a standalone feature.

Read our review of Atomic Blonde here.