We're having technical difficulties with my usual "The Arrow review format" hence I have to share my review of the film via our staff review format. Read on!
PLOT: Ten years after the Apes fled into the woods at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes; they now live in peace within a cozy home they have built for themselves. Alas, their little slice of heaven goes sour when humans crash the party and eventually everybody is singing “War, huh, yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” Not litterally of course. :)
LOWDOWN: Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was one of those random reboots that managed to expand upon and rival the original film (the 1968 Planet of the Apes of course) it was inspired by. It did its own thing, had heart and was overall very well done. I forgot Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes misfire faster than you can spell baboon. So I had hopes at the end of RISE that it would spark a sequel and thankfully it did. Behold DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES ladies and gent! A sequel to a reboot that managed to probably be the best entry in the entire franchise both old and new. I say probably because the original Planet of the Apes will always have a special place in my dead beat heart – hard to beat nostalgia yo!
Director Matt Reeves took the baton from Rupert Wyatt and ran with it resulting in DAWN being quite the achievement on countless levels. Although bigger in scope than the original reboot, I esteemed that this follow up managed to capture the heart of its predecessor. Caesar’s plight in terms of his rapport with the humans and his fellow Apes (including his immediate family) was poignant to say the least and was elevated by Andy Serkis' best motion capture performance to date. He made the King Ape a character to reckon with! Whether it was his deep expressive eyes, his no BS voice (when that Ape spoke, I f-ing listened) or commanding physical presence, every time Ceasar hit the screen, I was riveted. I truly cared about him and have no shame to say that I got teary eyed here and there when he went through "tough times". One day I wanna have a beer with Caesar and philosophize about life with him and shite! We all have dreams...
Morover, the film went beyond being solely a CGI fest big summer blockbuster as it showcased more brains than the norm and had something to say on top of its physical get-downs. At the end of the day the core of the affair was a statement on the human condition (even through the Apes) with good and evil on both sides not being black and white, but tainted with a shade of grey (for the most part, more on that below). “We humans are idiots” often crossed my mind on this watch. I can start rambling about it till the Apes come home, but I won’t. I’ll stick to the movie. But yeah... we so can suck... it's embarrassing. Technically, I think we just a hit a new echelon here! Dawn’s use of CGI was simply astounding for 98% of the time. Seamless really. After the first ho-hum 5 minutes (with a shoddy CG bear that totally took me out of the set-up off the bat), the film got its shit together and then some! I quickly forgot that I was watching digital characters interact - take notes George Lucas!
These were real Apes to me, not only due to the impeccable CG (props to the animation department BTW) but the stellar motion capture performances by the aforementioned Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell (who truly shined as Koba), Judy Grier and the army of stuntmen who got their Apes on in this film. Director Matt Reeves was on fire here as well! He boldly captured the scope of his tale while the tragic mood of it all was conveyed ideally. And when it eventually all blew up; Reeves gunned out visually arresting, gritty and visceral action set pieces that wowed the eyes, thrilled and that also managed to affect me emotionally. No small feat there! Hookers and beers for that guy! He earned them!
Tag to all that a haunting score by Michael Giacchino that backed up the drama/tension like an ace, potent mood by DOP Michael Seresin (who of course was the DP on one of my favorite movies; ANGEL HEART), clever moments, tight dialogue and able performances by the human actors (Gary Oldman shined when onscreen and Jason Clark made for an affable hero) and you get a blockbuster that had more brains, Apes, heart and skills than the usual summer fare. On the flip-side some turn of events were transparent. Set ups were obvious and some of the payoffs were too. Nothing to go postal about but it had to be mentioned. My biggest gripe with this one though was that Jason Clark and Gary Oldman's roles aside, I didn’t really care about any of the human characters here. They were bland and thin and paled in comparison to the characterization of the Apes.
Sure, they tried to give Keri Russell’s part some depth at a certain point, but it went on deaf ears. I didn’t care, it was too little too late. And the same went for that pouting kid (Kodi Smit-McPhee). A Mack truck could have run him over in the movie and I wouldn’t have blinked. But what really grinded my gears was that one conveniently STUPID and full on a-hole character (tackled by Kirk Acevedo), who didn’t feel like a real person to me, just a plot device on two legs. They should have handled the latter the same way they dealt with Oldman’s character; with “some” layers and a pinch of common sense. The movie was smarter than this cliched "bad guy", it was a shame they went THAT way.
Overall though; DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was a solid movie all around! It sported all of the yummy toppings and on top of that had lots of meat underneath(Did that make sense?) Yup, this was a full celluloid meal! And you bet the door was left open for a sequel. You can count me in for another one! See it this weekend and let me know what you thought of it via the comments below! APESSSS!