Many critics hailed it as the best film in the rebooted Apes series, queuing up to praise its beauty and complexity.
"Like Caesar and company, the films seem to be getting more intelligent and human as they evolve," noted Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty. "The monkey business is sombre, brutal and utterly persuasive in this dazzling third entry of a sci-fi series that's only getting better," agreed Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out.
Others went still further. "With War for the Planet of the Apes, technological wizardry and first-rate storytelling combine into a bracing action-adventure that concludes the best science fiction trilogy since the original trio of Star Wars movies," enthused Indiewire's Eric Kohn.
As before, Andy Serkis's astonishing motion-capture performance as Caesar was singled out for special praise. Writing in The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw observed that: "Perhaps it is absurd to attribute charisma to a character who is an amalgam of digital fabrication and flesh-and-blood reality but that is what Serkis/Caesar has: he genuinely does look like a careworn military leader, bowed by age, coarsened by violence, haunted by loss, but still physically strong and with a natural aptitude for command."
Woody Harrelson's Colonel McCullough is equally impressive. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin considers "his bullet-like bald head and fluting, Brando-esque tenor flag up just how close to the Heart of Darkness this science-fictional future has strayed".
Stephen Whitty in the New York Daily News opted for a fruity simile: "Harrelson can peel and eat scenery like a bunch of bananas".
Newcomer Steve Zahn was also praised for providing much-needed comic relief as Bad Ape. "In a goofy body-warmer and bobble- hat combo, Zahn brings a levity that has been painfully lacking from the series until now, and speaks to a far more varied emotional landscape this time around," reckoned Empire's James Dyer.
The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez was among those drawing attention to director Matt Reeves' total control of his material: "Reeves is the rare blockbuster filmmaker that can create epic scale without abandoning the intimacy of characters and relationships. Brimming with emotional intelligence, the human texture Reeves delivers in ‘Apes’ separates his film from the rest of the tentpole pack."
But could there be more Apes movies, as Andy Serkis has hinted? Describing War for the Planet of the Apes as "one of the best summer blockbusters in years," IGN's Scott Collura points out that Reeves has certainly done the groundwork with "enough world-building that the series can potentially continue from here – and it’s a rare case where, after three movies, we’re left wanting more."
War for the Planet of the Apes opens on 11 July.