Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a Tearjerker?: A Movie Review

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Director: Matt Reeves.

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Pierre Boulle.

Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

It has been three years since a Planet of the Apes film has been released (2011) and fourty-five years since the first Planet of the Apes film launched (1968). This time, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves helms the chaos between humans and apes. And, events in Reeves' interpretation are overly sombre. As well, the material is approached with a very serious viewpoint. Tears and frowns are the order of the day. Still, the film's climax offers a few interesting conflicts and most of the characters are well drawn, even with the use of computer enhanced imagery. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a light recommend, for those with a penchant for science fiction, action thrillers.

The story takes place ten years after the previous film. Now, humanity is on the brink of extinction, after a Simian Flu has ravaged the populace. Several genetically modified monkeys (apes, chimpanzees, orangatangs) inhabit a forest, just outside of San Francisco. A band of human survivors, immune to the flu, are looking to further secure their community; they encounter the monkeys in the local foliage. The many differences between the species eventually leads to war and only one species can rule the world.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes sets itself in the thriller genre. There are action elements here, interwoven with dramatic ones. Though, it would be difficult to forget science fiction as talking apes are unique and still undiscovered. Dramatic elements are introduced early, along with conflict. A group of human survivors encounter the talking apes, in a forest and one chimpanzee is wounded. Now, the leader of the apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis), must find a diplomatic solution. A dialogue is begun between human and ape. The drama comes from the moral choices each character chooses and there are lots of challenging choices to be made. Though, dramatic elements slow the film down slightly. The conflict in the film rises into the climax. Here, tensions between the two species comes to a head as one of the apes, Koba (Toby Kebbell), seeks revenge for past injustices. A war is started. The action sequences in the second and third acts are visually stunning and the CGI elements are often top notch. Gunfire inhabits a good portion of the film and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes blends a few genres into a satisfying feature.

Still, the film comes across as overly sombre. The score, from Michael Giacchino, is a melancholic's nightmare. The soundtrack is overly sad. The tone is amplified by the character's many sour emotions and reactions. Characters are often lamenting over tragedies, such as a mother becoming ill, or a son being injured. The many characters emote and show empathy, but the common emotion here is sadness. Light moments are relegated to a few laughs, involving a dancing ape (Koba). The film's tone is overly dour and this viewer was thankful for the more frenetic and chaotic elements near the film's conclusion. Apparently, mankind's apocalyptic future is one of many tears and not much else.

Overall, this film fan still enjoyed this title due to a couple of film elements (acting, conclusion). Much of the acting is well delivered. Actor Jason Clarke as Malcolm offers an every man, trapped in a difficult situation. Clarke gets a chance to explore a number of emotions, from fear to hatred. Other characters, such as Caesar, are also challenged with tough interactions. Though, Caesar's acting is delivered through animation. These animations are top notch and the facial expressions look almost human. The acting in the film is often well done. Also, the film offers a story within a story. This title is part of a wider arc, which will be developed in a future film. The balance between human and ape characters is almost even in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, this dynamic will change as other, future films will show. This viewer enjoyed the open ending and it will be interesting to see how other films develop. The acting and open story line offered two intriguing and compelling film elements.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is currently in theatres, through 20th Century Fox. Many action, or thriller film fans will find an entertaining time here. A definite blockbuster, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes offers a solid story in a futuristic and dangerous landscape. Though often sombre and overly serious, the dramatic elements help build the conflict, which explodes in later scenes. This title offers many interesting characters in a world where the apes are winning and humans are breathing their last breaths. Still, this long running sci-fi series has many more breaths to breathe.

Overall. 7.25 out of 10 (a couple of complex characters, a couple of overly flat characters, the film felt toned down on purpose to receive a PG-13 rating).

A trailer for the film is hosted here:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Trailer on 28DLA

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