Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the planet of the apes – 4/5 – I’ve mentioned before in other reviews; but it is worth repeating; sequels are films that can be one of two things:

A welcome successor to the first film and lore

An obvious money grab

Regardless of either fact, a sequel is a film that needs to be able to progress the story and stand on its own merits. If a film can do that, it doesn’t matter if it’s either or both, it succeeds in being entertaining.  No fluff in this work of art; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes builds upon the first (in great degree) and provides us with a world that is flushed with enough entertainment and action that you will find proof that a film can be smart and blockbuster oriented.

Premise: 10 Years since the Apes escaped; human society has fallen because of a deadly virus.  Scarce and barely surviving, the last humans of San Francisco make a last attempt to get a power source.  This brings them in confrontation with the Apes.  What starts out as a shaky peace eventually leads to all out war.  How will Caesar lead, and how will the humans survive.

Even though there are human characters in this film, they play a secondary role to the apes.  Because of this, I will focus most of this description of acting on them.   First we have to identify who the main ape is.  That would be Caesar, played and motioned captured by Andy Serkis.  10 years has passed, and now we find Caesar leading a colony of apes in the Redwood forest north of San Francisco.  Here, we see there has been progress with how the apes interact, learn and live.  You also see how Caesar becomes a very strong but flawed leader; who knows his rule is not without is fraught.  Within this, you watch a deeply moving characterization of who Caesar is and must become if the apes will have a leader they deserve.  All of the layering of humanistic appeal and heart of the character is brought greatly through the actions and emotional portrayal provided by Serkis, who proves he is the master of Motion Captured.  Even with a digitally created creature, all facial and physical interactions are brought to life through Serkis, showing a raw appeal of believing in his cause.  The ‘flawed’ sense shows his conundrum in his decision making (at times) but you see good intention in those choices.  Opposite Caesar, you have Koba, played by Toby Kebbell.  You see that Koba has completely different ideas about what the apes should do and how they should go about ‘ruling’ this world.  He fights against Caesar through interaction of ideas and purpose, which provides the wits and charms of both characters.  If Caesar is the ‘yin’, then Koba is the ‘yang’.  His characteristics are very vile, brooding and straight up shows signs of  an archetype of a ‘typical’ villain.  Even for a lot of predictability to his behavior (especially in the second half of the film), Kebbell provides enough worth in providing provoking characteristics, which makes him stand out in the film.   Along with these two creatures, some prominent apes you see on the screen are:

Judy Greer as Cornelia (Caesar’s wife)

Terry Notary as Rocket (Caesar’s second in command)

Karin Knoval as Maurice (Caesar’s third in command)

Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes (Caesar’s son)

Doc Shaw as Ash (Rocket’s son)

These actors/actresses do a good job in providing some worth to the whole ‘ape society’, but aren’t as fleshed out as Caesar or Koba.   When it comes to the human actors/actresses, you have as followed:

Jason Clarke as Malcolm

Gary Oldman as Dreyfus

Keri Russell as Elle

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Alexander

There are a few other prominent humans, but they are the obvious one-dimensional characters not worth talking about.  When it comes to these four, they have some hearsay with the remaining humans left alive in San Francisco.  Clarke’s Malcolm is the basic representative of the ‘good guy’ persona, one that believes there is a middle ground with dealing with the Apes in the north.  He has the heart of gold; one that shows the warmth of humans towards the Apes.  His interactions with Caesar helps provide a worth to a developing friendship.  This shows a degree of ‘hope’ and ‘struggle’ that must preserver, even in the face of treachery.  He might not have the deeply moving qualities like Caesar, but it is a formidable approach to moving the story along.  Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus, the leader of the remaining humans.  He isn’t in the film for much of the screen time, but his ‘commanding’ personality helps provide a combative spirit.  In him, you see he has flaws in his ideas, but see he has good thought in is blind reality.  He isn’t as ‘typical’ in his archetype like Koba, but it shows proof of a hazy element to the politics between him and Malcolm.  The rest of the human cast are the archetypes of any kind of ‘dramatically’ enticed film.  They provide a ‘backdrop’ for the world created, but nothing more than that.

The direction of this film has an even flow through precise pacing combined with a very intelligent script.  You see that the director does a good job to play on the source of life, society and social interactions; no matter if it’s the ape colony of the surviving humans.  The direction focuses mostly on the ‘themes’ of the film.  What this does is provide quality to the spectacle created in its blockbuster ‘mantra’; providing a layer of focus and wealth to the action set pieces, dramatic moments and ‘game changing’ climax.  The film begins 10 years after the first one.  The virus has almost completely wiped out all of humanity, save for a few places.  Paralleling the demise of the human is the subsequence ‘rise’ of the ape colony, led by Caesar.  They have grown from the caged mentality; through family and intelligence.  All seems quite peaceful for the apes, till Malcolm and his crew come in contact with them.  From this encounter, the film takes us down paths of ‘unexpected’ turns, showing its rear head through two distinct purposes of certain characters; how will Caesar lead through this confrontation and how will Malcolm achieve his goal of living peaceful with the apes.  Within these ‘common’ character motivations, there lies the overall themes of realism when it involves politics, humanities worth, proof of living and family.  You see a lot of these themes push forth through Malcolm’s and Caesar’s decisions in the first act.  The ripple effect of these choices push the film forward, which helps create the ‘hazy’ feeling of who is good or evil, providing alliances that drives the rest of the cast into making tougher choices.  As the domino’s fall the film picks up and begins to move along a precise fast pace.  This is done through great appeal of the ‘cinematic’ effects, a tight script and narrow focus on specifics choices rather than fluff.  As the film moves through the back and forth of both groups, the film introduces its ‘pivotal’ moment, drawing us into the third act .  As you progress, you see how there is an added ‘cloth to the thread’; proving that a summer blockbuster can be filled with smart and witty dialogue, strong themes and great personification as whole along with providing a spectacle through pizzazz of CGI, action sequences and warring factions.  As we head into the third act, the uneasy peace finally boils over, and we go to war.  A lot of great action sequences are on display; like the gun battles, apes charging on horses and so forth.  What is most impressive is the interaction that provide ‘twist’ is the added wealth of deeply moving characters (mostly in the apes).  The film deepens it’s harden proof of morals, showing the growth in some characters (Caesar’s Son) and the degrading sides of others (Koba).  Once the film kicks a few more ‘dramatic’ moments in that involve Malcolm and Caesar, we head into the climax of the film.  A lot of poignant moments happen here, even if they are commonplace for films dealing with ‘political’ wrangling. As the film ends, it provides us with answers to the themes, and also show another level of growth for Caesar.  I can only bring the climax into one word; family.

The visuals of the film (no matter if it’s the world or the CGI created creatures) are some of the most groundbreaking if not best use of computer graphics in any film.  When it comes to the creation of the apes; they look so realistic, at a point you forget they are CGI created.  This shows how great the visual department works at their job; taking their time to create these creatures, and how distinct each of them are to both their role and overall affect on the film.  When it comes to the creation of this world, you get a dire sense of both societies, as they are adjusting to the realities that started from the first film.  The ‘post apocalyptic’ feel is brought through the aging structures of San Francisco, as well as the creation of the ‘gloomy’ atmosphere.  The score in the film can be somewhat of a nuance (at parts) but beyond the cliché feeling you get, it does help bring tension when it comes to certain moments in the film.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel that does enough things to be great continuation, and also provide a distinction with its own merits.  You see a lot of emotional depth through the apes, especially Caesar.  You also see how themes of modern society has an effect on both parties in the film (Human survivors and ape colony).  If you’re looking for a great summer blockbuster that combines wits and entertainment, this is one for you.  You will not be disappointed if you watch this at the theaters.

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