Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Reviews
Swinging in at 2 hours, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a solid mixture of story, character, and action. Things are predictable and there are times when the plot details become tedious; however, as a whole, this picture comes together.
It can be said that this picture relies heavily on CG, and yes it does. All can be forgiven if done the right way and this film does it the right way. The motion capture and the presentation of the apes are spectacular in their own right; almost as if they are standing right there with the rest of the actors.
The human characters serve as a good contrast to the apes, which is much welcome. Watching 2 hours of apes just wouldn't be the same. Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell have the major human characters to follow.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes never brings the suspense or excitement, yet it is still a recommendable piece.
Following on from the first reboot of this classic franchise with this new cracking title we now see the results of simian flu as its wipes out most of humanity across the globe. Only pockets of people who are naturally immune to the disease are left to try and rebuild whatever they can from their former existence as the dominant species on Earth. In the mean time Caesar and his ape companions have evolved further living in a big Ewok village just outside San Francisco, they don't want war but will fight if they have too.
Right first things first...holy piles of elephant dung this movie looks good! and when I say good I mean sumptuous. The first shot is a close up of Caesar's glaring eyes as his pack stalk prey on the hunt. To say this image is haunting is an understatement, you'd think it was an actual person! in fact I don't even know if it was CGI! (probably was). This first sequence sets up the rest of the movie clearly showing you the effects have been pumped up vastly (they're on steroids) and we are now easily on terms with Kubrick's space odyssey. That's not to say director Reeves doesn't know this...oh he knows and he takes full advantage with some very familiar sound bites that hark back to the beginning of man in that little space flick. You can hear the same type of choir usage in the opening sequences and in the end with heavy orchestral beats hammering it home just in case you're a bit mutton. Yes its not exactly original or very subtle but it certainly sounds epic and works well. As the apes swing through the thick mist swept trees and foliage bearing down on their kill you can't help but be mightily impressed. The whole thing looks and sounds like something that should be from Arthur C. Clarke's seminal sci-fi novels if adapted now...its almost too good looking for this silly franchise.
This is not the only epic shot or sequence within the movie, the emotions expressed by Caesar and various other ape characters is pretty darn amazing. People are saying Serkis should get an Oscar for his performance but admittedly I really don't know where he ends and the CGI blokes take over. The general movement of the mammals is very very good but lets be honest here, there are many dancers and performers that could probably do that. What really impresses is the CGI work on the fur, wet fur especially and everyday movements and emotions in the ape faces. There are times when you think you're watching a real chimpanzee it looks so good, Koba especially looks very realistic with his mottled skin. The large orangutan is another highly realistic looking creation as are the gorillas. Some chimp characters are more obvious than others strangely, mainly the lead characters like Blue Eyes don't look as good, the female apes aren't as good either, Caesar on the other hand looks the most human (I guess that makes sense). Is it me or does Caesar actually look like a bearded Charlton Heston in this flick??!
Not only do the apes look good the locations and sets look tremendous too! The ruined San Francisco looked...real! it genuinely looked like they trashed the place for the movie. Its within Frisco that most of the big action takes place too and again I can't deny it looks very grown up and very real. This is most definitely not your average summer blockbuster affair for the scroats oh no, this is a proper science fiction tale with gritty visuals. Is there anything more terrifying than seeing a bigass rampaging crazy chimpanzee upon a charging horse wielding a big assault rifle?? Let me rephrase that, is there anything more terrifying than seeing a crazy bigass chimpanzee upon a charging horse wielding a big assault rifle...and it knows how to shoot the thing quite accurately!!! Especially when the chimp in question is Koba who lets be honest...is a scary looking motherfucker. Oh...where did they get all the horses??
On one hand the battle sequences are viscerally exciting and pretty brutal with lots of grand slow motion shots of certain apes looking both macho and intimidating. On the other hand I couldn't help but feel uneasy at the entire thing, here I am watching all kinds of apes getting blown to shit and mown down by automatic gun fire as if it were 'Saving Private Ryan'...but with apes. Should I be enjoying this? I felt sorry for the apes and didn't really enjoy watching them die like humans...I know how that sounds but animals are different to us in movies, don't like to see them killed. I guess feeling sorry for the apes was the idea as most had been forced and tricked into a grisly war.
It did make me chuckle a little bit at the start though, the humans in Frisco could of easily wiped out all the apes in a matter of minutes seeing as they were all tooled up, game over. The apes only had spears at the time, plus the main lead human character could of spoken to Caesar right there and then instead of encouraging trouble by disobeying the apes line in the sand ultimatum. Why didn't they ask the apes about the dam right at the start when they had the face-off, perfect time, instead he goes off later into their village pissing them off even more. I also must ask how many apes there actually were! I know in the first movie many escaped from the zoo and test facility but Jesus there are apparently hundreds upon hundreds of them! Most get killed in the Frisco siege yet there are still tonnes of em', a literal army of apes, did seem a bit implausible even with ten years of breeding.
Lets not get ahead of ourselves though, this isn't a cheap action flick with cheap moments of gun totting cheese...OK there are one or two moments of convenient cheese, but not much. On the whole this movie delivers in depth levels of powerful human qualities such as leadership diplomacy acceptance wisdom authority loyalty and honour...with CGI monkeys. The gamut of emotions we see Caesar dealing with against the humans from anger and spite, to realisation of his own kind and finally acceptance that his apes are not better than humans after all is incredibly poignant. Of course on the flip side we see all the negative aspects of the human race played out via Koba.
It does all seem very much like a science fiction movie...which it is, but when you look into ape (chimp) behaviour its actually quite an eye opener to see that they can be quite vicious to one another. Some of the facial expressions you see displayed by Koba are very accurate which is pretty daunting. I will admit I didn't totally enjoy the very end as it seemed too much of a weak acceptance by the apes for pending war, I'm sure the remaining humans could easily speak up for them seeing as what happened was only confined to a small area. I did enjoy the fact there weren't any cliched baddie human characters for once but unfortunately Reeves seemingly couldn't resist an over the top setting for the final battle.
End of the day this does feel a bit like yet more filler or padding for the real focus of the franchise which is all out war between humans and apes. I do kinda feel they could of gotten to that point already instead of stretching it over two movies. But truth be told this is a rip-roaring science fiction adventure that not only betters the original by a good country mile, it also manages to be one of the best science fiction movies to come along for some time (yes its even better than all this comicbook fluff).
As we agonize over bloodshed in foreign upheavals daily (we are agonizing, aren't we? well aren't we?) this film considers these traumas while at the same time amazing us with the CGI-rendered apes, blurring the lines between our ideas of who's good necessarily or who's bad.
And the battle scenes are spectacular.
When the human characters speak with the same basic vocabulary and syntax as apes who are slowly being introduced to the concept of language itself.
ugh, but all that ape stuff is just SOOOOO good.
Excellent Film! Sequels can be a worry when coming from big studios. Greedy cash-ins are all too familiar, where rather than stepping further into the world established by the predecessor and exploring unlimited opportunities in character and themes, they just add more antagonists, more action and more noise. It can also be worrying when the original director who helped see a great film through till the end is replaced in the next film. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a refreshing and involving take on an old franchise and director Rupert Wyatt set up such promise for its sequel. Matt Reeves takes over the reins here on Dawn...and thankfully has taking the film to a rare, brilliant new level. The film is set ten years after the first film. Whereas Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a stripped back study of the science at the core of the story, whilst investing us in the human drama, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes throws us head first into a very different world. The scope is immense and multi-layered. At one view, it's a dead, frightening post-apocalyptic world. At another, it's brisk, dynamic and visually arresting. Matt Reeves has such a masterful handle on every string and creates brooding scope, claustrophobic tension and powerful action sequences; all amongst a basic, but incredibly rich morality play which is raw and powerfully spoken.
What is most fantastic about the character approach is nothing is clear cut. Good vs. Bad meet in the middle and spirals out to both sides. I could sit here and blabber about the complete awe I had of the major step up in visual effects of the Apes, but that's not what caught my attention. Right from the opening scene of an extreme close-up of Caesars eyes, I felt the characters. The performances from all stunt men and actors bringing life to these apes transcend the visual brilliance. It is collective. It is immersive. It is terrifying. Andy Serkis delivers one of his most satisfying performances to date. His dedication and his understanding of every thread and fiber of Caesars being are in every frame of this film. And I cannot forget to mention the all-out, aggressive performance from Toby Kebbell as Koba. He breaks the barrier of something quite terrifying and strong. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes transcends the Hollywood blockbuster. Not only does it deliver that rare sequel explores its world and characters further, but it's also richly told, beautifully and hauntingly portrayed and truly exciting and terrifying in equal measures. Quite possibly one of the best films of 2014.
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.
Nate's Grade: A-
The plot although somewhat obvious is intelligently written. Just the sheer amount of underlying themes of racism, the nature of war, mass politics alone can keep you interested for quite awhile but the characters are also relatable and lack of a better word incredibly "human". There's always a core of emotional resonance with every scene so even though we're bombarded with a lot of action at times, we're heavily invested as viewers.
Also I was absolutely astounded by the range of expressions you can get from the Apes, the motion capture and actors flawlessly make Caesar, Blue Eyes, Koba etc. all as readable individuals and it's just something marvellously fascinating to watch.
'Rise" made me crave for more and I'm just so happy that this sequel managed to deliver and more some. Truly a great among the foray of CGI-action-fest films that Hollywood's been churning out in recent years.