After the rough cut preview and release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment announced a third installment with Reeves returning to direct and co-write along with Bomback, and Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver serving as producers. Reeves is only the second director to return to helm a Planet of the Apes film, after J. Lee Thompson, who directed Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). In May 2015, the title was first given as War for the Planet of the Apes and was given a July 29, 2016, release date. With a release date set, this led to an accelerated production schedule. However, Fox wanted to give the third instalment plenty of time to be developed. In interviews for Dawn, Reeves talked a bit about the inevitable war Caesar would have with the humans: "As this story continues, we know that war is not avoided by the end of Dawn. That is going to take us into the world of what he is grappling with. Where he is going to be thrust into circumstances that he never, ever wanted to deal with, and was hoping he could avoid. And now he is right in the middle of it. The things that happen in that story test him in huge ways, in the ways in which his relationship with Koba haunts him deeply. It’s going to be an epic story. I think you’ve probably read that I sort of described it where in the first film was very much about his rise from humble beginnings to being a revolutionary. The second movie was about having to rise to the challenge of being a great leader in the most difficult of times. This is going to be the story that is going to cement his status as a seminal figure in ape history, and sort of leads to an almost biblical status. He is going to become like a mythic ape figure, like Moses." At New York Comic-Con 2016, Reeves explained that he and Bomback were influenced by many films before the writing process. Reeves said, "One of the first things that Mark and I did because we had just finished Dawn was that we decided to watch a million movies... We watched every Planet of the Apes movie, war movies, westerns, Empire Strikes Back... We just thought, 'We have to pretend we have all the time in the world,' even though we had limited time. We got really inspired." Reeves and Bomback sought broader inspirations from war films like Bridge on the River Kwai, The Great Escape and Apocalypse Now; Biblical epics like Ben-Hur (1959) and The Ten Commandments (1956); and the 1976 Clint Eastwood western, The Outlaw Josey Wales. In January 2015, Fox postponed the film's release date to July 14, 2017. Andy Serkis and previous cast members, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Judy Greer and Devyn Dalton, were announced to return. In September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Woody Harrelson had been cast. In October 2015, TheWrap reported that Steve Zahn was cast. Principal photography on the film began in October 2015 and concluded in March 2016. The film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada under the working title Hidden Fortress. As with Rise and Dawn, the visual effects for War were created by Weta Digital through ; the apes were created with a mixture of motion-capture and CGI key-frame animation.
The film stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval and Terry Notary. Serkis has given another outstanding turn as Caesar and has sealed his place in Planet of the Apes lore and fandom. Harrelson's The Colonel was a bit less interesting to watch than Kebbell's Koba, despite giving the best rogue military leader since Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979). Lastly, Zahn stole the show and gave a performance that could have easily had people laugh at him. Luckily it didn't turn out to be another Jar Jar Binks.
War For the Planet of the Apes is an ambitious, thoughtful, and potent action film that concludes the outstanding reboot series in spectacular fashion. The film is more than an exceptional science fiction movie, it is masterful filmmaking by any standard. A cinematic, cultural and personal triumph, the film is emotionally inspiring, aesthetically significant and critically important for the world, especially America – as a mirror of sober reminder. Reeves' film is a reminder that the Planet of the apes films aren't merely a frivolous distraction, but an embodiment of our selves. Rise's grounded origin tale and War's masterfully brazen science fiction saga are closed off with a complex and relevant war epic. War is a worthy, epic conclusion to a trilogy that has raised the bar for an entire genre. Reeves somehow never loses control - this is an accomplished and tremendously confident filmmaker, both in the execution of his thrilling chases and action beats, and in his manipulation of the complicated, multi-faceted narrative. Overall, it's a majestic, gorgeous, brutal and richly satisfying epic that is one of the best threequels ever made, and one of the best films of the year.