Friday, July 11, 2014


Much like its 2011 predecessor, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a sequel with a tall order to fill. After all, the title alone suggests how the film is going to end, which means the filmmakers have to make the journey to that end worthwhile. Telling a good story is always a good place to start.
Ten years after a man-made virus has wiped out most of the humans and mutated the apes into talkers and thinkers, a small band of human survivors led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), and Malcolm (Jason Clarke) venture into the territory controlled by the dominant apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), where a fragile truce is reached between humans and apes.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is very much like an old Cowboys & Indians movie. It is about two distinct groups trying to survive in a harsh territory, with both knowing that nothing good can come of an all-out war; handshakes are made, agreements are spoken, friends are made, and gestures of trust are forged. But like every good Cowboys & Indians adventure, eventual distrust of the other side takes over…leading to confusion, broken promises, betrayal, and eventually a minor dustup which leads to war. It’s a simple, and effective way to ground a very high-concept backdrop of walking and talking apes dominating a crumbling society of humans. What makes it all work is that director Matt Reeves weaves in human elements on both sides. Both sides have families and have lost much in the past decade, and both have a lot left worth fighting for. Perhaps the best part of the film is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to figure out which side to root for, as both are worth caring about.
Building a story of many layers dealing with family, love, loss, and eventually greed doesn’t distract Matt Reeves from giving us a gorgeous looking film. The deep forests and ruins of San Francisco are breathtaking to see, and Reeves’ camera explores every nook of the territory. Action scenes are steady and well-realized, and Michael Giacchino kicks in a very classic-sounding score. The CGI work is awesome, with each ape rendered beautifully and given distinctions so it’s easy to tell the great many of them apart. Andy Serkis once again does masterful work in bringing Caesar to life via motion-capture, but this time he is not alone as Judy Greer and Toby Kebbell are also called upon to provide life to their respective apes. They all do great work; making the film proof that CGI creations can be actual characters.

On the human side of things, Jason Clarke gets most of the heavy lifting and handles his burdens perfectly. Gary Oldman feels a little underused and amounts to an extended cameo, but he is given one powerful emotional scene which he really brings home. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kirk Acevedo are all excellent.
By the time the film wraps, it feels like a lot has happened, but oddly enough the humans, apes, and the planet are more-or-less in the same situation they were in when the film started. We knew that was going to happen, but how the DAWN happened is very much worth the ride. Action, adventure, family, love, and romance always make for a good story.


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