|DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
|11 July 2014|
|Scott Z. Burns|
|Action, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language
– 4.5 out of 5 stars
“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” is the perfect sequel. Not only does it introduce new and exciting characters that refresh the world in which it is set, the entire piece feels like a completely new entity, with Caesar the ape (motion captured by Andy Serkis), some of his followers including Koba, Rocket, and Maurice, and their backstory being the only connective tissue to “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” the first film in this series. Between the first and the second film, the airborne disease which killed Robert (Tyler Labine) and was passed onto Franco’s neighbor, who also turned out to be a pilot, which is dubbed the Simian Flu, is passed on and takes out most of the world’s population. The apes have started a colony in the redwoods outside San Francisco, where they were escaping to at the end of “Rise”. With Caesar as their leader and the humans dying off, they leave a peaceful existence, as Caesar and others start families of their own. Until one day, when Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes and Rocket’s son, Ash, stumble across a human on their way back from fishing. The human is the hot-headed Carver (Kirk Acevedo), a man that fears the apes because he does not understand them, and in that ignorance, he shoots before speaking.
Replacing James Franco as the main ape sympathizing character is the impeccable Jason Clarke as Malcolm. By Malcolm’s side are his son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his girlfriend, Ellie (Keri Russell), as well as a crew of men, including Carver. There mission into the redwoods stems from power running out down in the post-apocalyptic San Francisco below. Their generators are almost out of juice, but there is a functional hydroelectric dam that just needs some finesse to offer the city below the power it needs. The problem: that dam sits in the heart of the new ape colony, and the humans and the intelligent apes have had zero contact since the outbreak. That all comes to an end when the small group of humans faces off with the entire colony of apes, being told to “go away and never return”. Guess what? They return. Leading the group of humans actually is not Malcolm, it is Dreyfuss (all the Spielberg names are not lost on me) played by the unequivocal Gary Oldman. Happy to oblige Malcolm in his peaceful actions with the apes, he also keeps close tabs on the military arms warehouse they have at their disposal, with an even bigger obligation to the surviving humans looking to him for leadership.
Caesar has the situation under control but the apes and gorillas around him are not so certain they are safe. Koba is the biggest antagonist of the group, breaking away from Caesar’s orders constantly, filling Blue Eyes with doubt in his father, and picking fights with the humans he comes into contact with. Eventually these actions, mixed with the actions of Carver bring the peacefulness to an end, leading to the war that is promised in the trailer and the print advertising for the film. As with “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” the visual effects are unmatched, with motion capture offering some of the best CGI-acting I have ever witnessed. This begs the question whether the Academy will soon be creating a new category for performances like Andy Serkis’ who brings a talking ape to life, emoting some of the most heart-breaking acting in any film. In 2011, there were talks of Andy Serkis getting nominated for his role, and there are talks again this year, but with the Best Actor category always filled to the brim, it is hard to see this getting the recognition it deserves. Someday Andy Serkis will get an honorary Oscar for his motion capture work in both this and “The Lord Of The Rings” but for now we will just have to appreciate his amazing work ourselves. Continue reading