Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Reviews
When it was confirmed that 20th Century Fox was going to reboot the Planet of the Apes series it was clear that there were only going to be two outcomes ... it would suck or it would wow. In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes clearly wowed viewers and critics alike with the exception of its title. Now, set eight years later, after the events of the first film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes succeeds in almost every way for sequels. It's a more ambitious, thrilling and emotionally resonant film from its predecessor. Taking over the director's chair from Rise's Rupert Wyatt is Matt Reeves (Cloverfield and Let Me In).
From the beginning of the film Reeves immediately throws us into the action to get your pulse racing. This informs us of the chaos and tension left from the first film. We meet Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and his loyal group of primates, who have grown a community in San Francisco's Redwood Forest. Serkis is top-notch like he was in the first film. He gives Caesar a sense of morality and leadership. Every move of facial expression Serkis makes through the motion-capture acting is perfection. Caesar and his family have also matured over those eight years by building a community and using signs to communicate. They are in peace away from the humans. It's a shame that it doesn't last long because those "damn dirty humans" show up.
Most of the humans want to exterminate the apes for giving them a virus, including their leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), but Malcolm (Jason Clarke) sees differently. He wants to make peace and befriend the apes. Caesar is cautious at first but ends up warming up to the humans. Of course, with this being a film not everything falls into place. Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) doesn't like it. He despises the humans because of his past and wants them annihilated. Caesar's fight for peace puts him into mortal conflict with Koba. The human performances were good, but the real show is stolen by the performances of the apes. Serkis and his crew triumphed at the motion capture acting.
Their performances were stunning and it made the apes feel even more real. Apart from the acting is the groundbreaking special effects. Reeves and cinematographer Michael Seresin bring a sense of awe to the screen. In the end, Dawn triumphs Rise by a long shot and leaves you eager for more sequels to follow. Charlton Heston's original 1968 Planet of the Apes is still one of my favorites in the series, but after seeing Dawn it is clear that we may have a new winner. These apes are dynamite entertainment.
If this were the "Transformers" series I would care that much, but the original "Planet of the Apes" is indeed brilliant. Based on Rod Serling's adaptation of Pierre Boulle's novel La Plančte des singes , it was released in 1968, and features zero CGI. Instead it featured real actors doing "acting" while wearing make-up and simian-looking prosthetics. These devices were considered advanced at the time, but now appear rather primitive:
Still how scary-looking is that? Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans used their costumes to enhance their performances, to give them an "otherness" that they employed, but also had to overcome in order to create full characters. This is the opposite of what Jack Nicholson said about his role as The Joker in 1989's "Batman", essentially to "let the costume do the work".
The tension between artifice and reality is something CGI erases. While this makes for more realism, it also seems to infect movies with a slackness when it comes to developing stories and characters. Critics praise CGI and forget that a realistic wink or tear does not a character make. This was the case for the second remake of King Kong, of which A.O. Scott said:
The sheer audacious novelty of the first "King Kong" is not something that can be replicated, but in throwing every available imaginative and technological resource into the effort, Mr. Jackson comes pretty close.
Novelty and technology can't sustain a movie for 3 hours, characters and narrative can. Inexplicably Roger Ebert called Kong II "A stupendous cliffhanger, a glorious adventure, a shameless celebration of every single resource of the blockbuster, told in a film of visual beauty and surprising emotional impact." Roger Ebert is a wonderful human being, but I find his writing unmemorable. A.O. Scott seems to specialize in plot summaries. Plot summary + apologia that this is a "spirited" movie that isn't perfect = A.O. Scott review.
Despite my griping, I too wanted to see chimpanzees on horseback firing machine guns (I'm only human). I found that it was just not as thrilling as what the original "Apes" movie did for me: imagine a world where humans are no longer the pre-eminent species, where it's payback time for the creatures we have abused for millenia. Jerry Goldsmith's eerie modernist score helped create this sense of unease - so different from the crash, boom, bang of near-constant violence in "Dawn", which has a strange calming effect on me because it seems to be in almost every movie now, and signifies that the good guy is going to win. The other parts of the score could have been used in a life insurance commercial.
Speaking of good guys, did Director Matt Reeves have to make ape-leader Caesar into an absolute saint? Consider the strategy in the original "Apes" franchise. Caesar is a killer, but you understand his rage as he sees his enslaved ape-brothers stun-gunned, and watches his kindly guardian, played by Ricardo Montalban, die in order to protect him. I go to movies to see people who are worse than me, not better.
Recall the harrowing last scene in "Planet of the Apes" with Taylor and Nova about to enter into the Forbidden Zone after seeing the ruined Statue of Liberty:
Final verdict on "The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes":"You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
Postscript: "Planet of the Apes" features one of my favorite opening scenes in movies, Charlton Heston, the spaceship captain is smoking a cigar on the bridge, recording into his log before he goes into suspended animation:
"Tell me, though, does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother...keep his neighbor's children starving?"
Post-postscript: Really getting tired of seeing Gary Oldman, one of my favorite actors, trotting out his American accent in these trumped-up, square-spectacled Commissioner-Gordon-type roles.