Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawn of the planet of the apes movie poster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Gets A New Movie Poster
You Maniacs! You Made A Sequel! Damn You! God Damn You All To Hell!
Rise of the Dawn of the Battle to Escape the Conquest Beneath the Planet of the Apes. (An Introduction.)
All joking aside Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes the reboot/remake/prequel to the 1968 science fiction classic Planet Of The Apes was a phenomenal film. (it's partly a prequel to Planet of the Apes, Partly a reboot of the series, and partly a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) and it was exactly what the series needed in order to find it's feet again after several messy sequels and one awful Tim Burton remake.
Rise surprised audiences by adding surprising intelligence and emotional depth to the story of the ape civilization's origins, the film starred Andy Serkis as Caesar an ape that as a result of viral testing gains increased intelligence, displeased by mans treatment of apes Caesar began freeing his brothers from captivity and begins an ape revolution. 

The film was both a critical and commercial success that left audiences dying (not literally) to know what happened next and so three years later the story of Caesar continues.

Darkest Before The Dawn. (The Premise.)
Now directed by Matt Reeves (Rupert Wyatt having departed due to the studio pushing for a release date he didn't believe amicable) the film picks up ten years after the events of 'Rise' and the simian flu created as of the result of the experiments on the apes has proceed to cause the collapse of human civilization with only a small genetically immune population struggling to survive.
As mankind falls, the ape civilization has thrived having established a huge colony in the Muir woods and where the apes numbers have increased drastically and under Caesars leadership have lived peacefully. 
But when Apes and Man finally re-encounter one another the two groups must struggle to coexist or risk war for dominion of the planet. 

I'm just going to jump in early and say that 'Dawn' may be one of the darkest 12A films that I have ever seen, the film pulls no punches in its bleak environment playing mans struggle for survival after civilizations collapse as true to life as possible and when negotiations with the apes go south and the two groups come to blows the consequence to both groups is devastating and brutal.  

While Dawn's plot is not overly ambitious preferring to explore the conflict between the two races and within the group itself, the film is seemingly edited to perfection not featuring a single unnecessary or irrelevant scene, everything ties together perfectly,
The movie also offers a nod back to 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' that I really was not expecting, its nice to see that as the series moves forward into the darker future of the story the series still remember where it began, while not being afraid to play with the stories increased scale, from the first confrontations between the two groups the film happily shows the strength of the apes numbers in two very daunting scenes, raising the question on that if war is unavoidable just which group will survive and what will be left of them.

'Dawn' actually carries a strong Cowboys and Indians vibe as the two distinct culture struggle to co-exist peacefully despite distrusting one another and individuals inside the groups working towards causing war (a sort of 'Dances With Apes' if you will), and the film is able to cause the audience to care strongly enough about both races that that they don't want to see them fight, to want peace to succeed, Obviously for narrative reasons it can't, but that just makes it all the more heartbreaking when things descend into violence because of just how close the groups came to achieving a functional peace. 

Apes Are People Too. (The Cast.)
I. Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans Oh My! (The Apes.)
The Apes are led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) who after leading the apes to freedom in 'Rise' has spent the following Ten years establishing a home and community for the apes. It truly goes without saying the Andy Serkis gets nowhere near enough credit for his work in Mo-Cap, the man is a pioneer of the motion capture technology, his work through characters such as Gollum, King Kong and Monkey (from Enslaved) has helped shaped this generation of visual effects in film, 
Even now when he himself is no participating he is schooling other actors in mo-cap performances (he is currently working alongside Mark Ruffalo for Avengers; Age of Ultron) and while his appearance in 'Dawn' is the result of the work of a collaboration of artist and technicians his performance is his own bringing life to Caesar and making him seem as real and (for lack of a better word) human as any of the other no Computer Generated characters.
The film also tracks a direct character arc for Caesar as he develops more and more human skills as the film progress moving from communicating from mainly sign language to the spoken word.

Koba (Toby Kebbell)'s hatred of humans comes from a very simple but effective motivation: revenge for experiments conducted on him by human scientist, this hatred was glimpsed at in 'Rise' when he pushed Jacobs to his death so his actions in 'Dawn' really feel like a natural progression of elements subtly set up in the previous installment.
Koba's language skills also develop over the duration of the movie which is a little more surprising given his distaste of humans despite using more and more of their language.
(In a sub note: Koba fire the two Light Machine Guns he is duel wielding while charging into battle through flames on horse back may be the most epic film moment I have ever seen.)
(In a further sub note: Koba is Terrifying!)

And Caesar and Koba are not the only apes to reappear many of the supporting apes from 'Rise' return including Cornelia (Judy Greer) who is now Caesar's wife, Rocket (Terry Notary) who now has a son Ash (Doc Shaw) who is a close friend of Caesar's own son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Maurice the orangutan (Karin Konoval) who delightfully is given a little more screen presence than last time around having grown into the role of the groups teacher and Caesars friend and adviser.

II. I'm a People Person (The Humans.)
While the film focus's its attention primarily on the ape community it makes sure that the human cast is equally well established with the human cast is led by Jason Clarke's Malcolm the co-founder of the human colony who attempts to negotiate with Caesar for safe quarter in the ape territory hoping that being honest and open with the apes is the best way to avoid conflict. As previously mentioned Malcolm and Caesar operate as parallels of one another both making their decisions based on what is the best way to protect their families, both willing to place a little faith in the opposing species in hopes of cooperation and peace.
Jason Clarke is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors thanks to his performance in films like 'Lawless' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' also he made a pretty awesome villain in 'White House Down' and here he once again delivers a fantastic performance carrying the weight of the decisions that Malcolm has to make in a very honest and dramatic fashion as he strives to protect those he cares about.

Speaking on massively underrated performers Gary Oldman also makes an appearance as the human settlements co-founder Dreyfus who see's the apes as an obstacle in his path towards reestablishing human dominance,  while to specifically anti-ape he will not let anything prevent him from achieving his goals even if it means war.

Each apes personality is just as effectively well developed as their human co-stars (who are by no means underdeveloped) in fact one of the most surprising things about the film is just how understandable every characters motivation is, this may be because of simple narrative tools such as the films to major view points on the situation between the two groups (war & peace) being paralleled between both an ape and human counterpart: Malcolm  and Caesar both wish to avoid war for the sake of their families, while Koba and Dreyfus both push towards war as they both blame the other species for past grievances (Koba's treatment at the hand of human scientists, Dreyfus's family died as a result of the simian flu). 

The films visual effects are utterly superb and are a true collaboration between both actor and effects studio with the actors actions being captured through mo-cap before Weta Digital added the 'digital make up' in order to make the apes appear real, and it is important  that the film succeed in making the apes seem lifelike as the film spends more time amongst the apes than it does with humans. It is through these two elements that the film performs it biggest marvel: it makes the apes real. both physically (when it rains their fur gets wet and muddy, when they are injured they bleed, and sons carry genetic glimpses of their parents appearance) and as people (even the supporting apes such as Maurice and Ash are surprisingly well rounded).
The apes culture also seems to have progressed naturally between films with some apes able to speak but a few words while the vast majority communicate through sign language, whilst also seemingly learning written word.

Well I Guess That Concludes Negotiations. (The Action.)
The ape attack on the human colony towards the films climax is an utterly stunning action sequence that captures the utter chaos of battle brilliantly especially in a sequence in which Koba boards and decommissions a tank causing the camera to follow the perspective of the out of control barrel as it spins revealing a 360 degree view of the carnage, 
The action is frantic and brutal as the human self belief in their superiority through firearms is questioned when the apes themselves begin to pick up guns, the apes make a surprisingly terrifying fighting force especially when mounted on horseback or throwing flaming explosive barrels in a manner similar to Donkey Kong and there acrobatic nature makes them a nightmare when it comes to base defense, Also Koba kills a bear, and its Awesome!
The final confrontation is also highly dramatic while at the same time the films most cinematic moment moving (only a little) away from the rest of the films realism.

O Green World! (Post Human Earth.)
Another of the films outstanding achievements is the overall appearance of the planet as nature begins to reclaim the world in the ten years of mankind's downfall.
Many post apocalypse films have shown what the planet may return to in our absence but none feel quite so natural as 'Dawn' which see's the world as a slightly more savage but not that different place as natural slowly but surely weathers away all of mankind's creation.
despite the films heavy use of visual effects the apes home was a built set as Reeves wanted to make the environments feel as realistic and lifelike as possible.

King Of The Swingers. (Conclusions.)
And there in lies arguably the element that makes 'Dawn' such an outstanding success is just how 'real' the film is able to make everything seem, considering we are discussing a film about talking apes the film plays as one of the most serious blockbuster dramas I have seen in recent years (if not longer)
And so we have a sequel that actually bests its previous installment delivering an emotional, intelligent and suspenseful that builds upon the story of 'Rise' while moving to bridge the gap to and honoring the 1968 original (The films musical score actually features elements taken directly from the original film)
A problem I have encountered writing this review is a lack of any immediate after film observations as when my three friends and I left the cinema after watching 'Dawn' the conversation failed to progress much beyond each of us announcing "That was soooooo good" constantly for the next four hours, which it turns out is a declaration of the films brilliance in itself.

'Dawn' is a phenomenal piece of film making and a contender for my favorite film of 2014 (currently it's a toss up between 'Dawn' and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.) and I know that there are many highly anticipated films being released in the coming weeks but I cannot stress just how worth a watch this films is, I have never run a star system on this blog as I believe my opinions should speak for themselves but If I did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would receive five stars easily and it would have earned every last one of them.

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