Sunday, July 13, 2014

[Review] Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes opens up about a decade after where Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes left off. The population has been mostly overtaken by the simian flu epidemic, and the cityscapes are barren wastelands, almost "Walking Dead"-like. The stoic, center chimp, Caesar (played awesomely by Andy Serkis) leads a group of apes that reside in a cliffside town outside of San Francisco's wreckage. There's a lengthy, gorgeous sequence of the apes carrying on with every day life, as they gather food and communicate by sign language. This also introduces the main supporting apes: Caesar's son, Blue Eyes... the resentful and human-hating, Koba (Toby Kebbell)... and the long face of wisdom, Maurice. The film spends a lot more time developing the dimensions of the apes, rather than the humans. And that's probably for the best, because the apes deserve to be the stars this time around.

Major conflict sparks when a couple of the apes encounter a group of (human) explorers, and an act of violence propels implications of war. Malcom (Jason Clarke) does his best to act as mediator between the opposing sides, and Caesar's past memories of human Franco prevent him from hastily leaping into combat. It turns out Malcom wants to reboot a hydroelectric dam that's located on the ape territory, in order to restore power in San Francisco. Caesar eventually agrees to help him, and the groups work to establish trust between each other. However, internal conflicts on both sides render the harmony elusive.

In a different progression from Rise, instead of making you root for one side, Dawn tactfully emphasizes the good and bad pieces of each, which raises some moral complexities, along with the message that you can't let a single individual define an entire whole. But even the bad pieces are much more grey than clear-cut here. The template has the makings of a Greek tragedy, but with sci-fi grandeur, gun-toting apes on horseback, and less poetic language.

The narrative is constructed with emotional resonance and themes of family, friendship, and the difficult quest for coexistence. There are plenty of heart-tugging moments - in the form of cute baby Caesars, poignant story shocks, and an affecting nostalgia that calls back to the early brighter moments of Rise. In turn, the action sequences pack an oomph because of the motives driving them, our investments in the characters (on each side), and the intense stakes behind it all. The arrangements are visually stellar, furiously choreographed, and enhanced by some magnificent framing and technical camerawork--A stunning rotating shot from a tank, a long take of Malcom navigating a dilapitated building amid chaos... The battles leave you with a memorable impression - an "I haven't seen it quite like this before" feeling. The top-notch digital effects and steady uprise of pace are also crucial to the overall experience.

Add Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes to the list of great, big spring/summer sequels (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, 22 Jump Street, and How To Train Your Dragon 2). We'll leave Transformers out of that conversation.


1 comment:

  1. Great review Zach. Couldn't agree more. This movie pretty much had it all. Great to see some brainly blockbusters still swimming around - definitely wise to leave Transformers out of the conversation.

    Here's my review of Dawn for you to check out: