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Archive for the ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Category

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A chimp brandishes an automatic rifle while astride a rearing horse.I am a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes series, but let’s be honest, some of them are less than stellar in the movie department, not to mention you always knew that there were people in ape costumes.  There was deniability in this as far as the basis for this actually happening in reality.  This is science fiction.  That’s it.

However, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, that is gone for the most part.  The apes seem so realistic, move, act and talk in such a way that the science fiction element seems to disappear.  Instead what you have is a struggle between two groups, fighting for dominance and survival in a post-apocalyptic world.  A world that I really had no problem believing in, and that is the biggest reason why Dawn is genius.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up about 10 years after Rise.  The virus that spread at the end of the first film has all but killed off the entire human race.  Apes rule the world, or at least the Bay area.  Dawn is smart in that it stays in the Bay area for the entire film, instead of trying to dive into what has happened to the rest of the world.  We soon learn that a small commune of humans have survived and are immune to the virus.  Caeser, Koba and the rest of the apes live in the surrounding forests at peace, but their paths will soon cross.

The commune of humans lead by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman)  is running out of power.  Which means they are running out of time.  They need to get a dam up and running to generate power for them to live off of, so that they can begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild human civilization.  The problem is that the dam is in the heart of the apes habitat.  Malcolm takes a team which includes nurse Ellie (Keri Russell), his son Alex, and a handful of other men to set out to start the dam.  Carver, one of Malcolm’s men, runs into Caeser’s son Blue Eyes, and another ape Ash, who have strayed from the pack.  Carver panics and shoots Blue Eyes.  Caeser runs to find his son injured, and along with his family of apes screams at Malcolm and his group to go.  They are startled to here an ape talk, and flee.  When they return back to camp Malcolm explains the situation to Dreyfus who does not believe his wild tale.  He soon finds out for himself that it is no tale, as Caeser and his entire family of ape’s follows the humans back to the commune, and speaks to them that they must never return to their home, or they will attack them.  Malcolm and Dreyfus agree, but they know the truth.  They must get the damn up and running.  Malcolm must somehow rationalize with Caeser and ask for his help, before Dreyfus decides to attack the amp community.

The idea seems implausible.  Having to rationalize with apes for survival, but it’s really not.  Dawn frames each of these groups almost as foreign entities to each other.  They are indeed different ways of life, but ape and human must find a common way to communicate with each other, and this is really the heart of the film.  It’s a push and pull power play essentially between four main characters that makes for the bulk of the drama.

Malcolm must deal with Dreyfus in his own camp.  Caeser must deal with Koba and his hatred for the human race in his camp, and then Malcolm must find that common ground with Caeser for both groups to coexist.  Caeser wants to believe that humanity is not lost, but Koba will do nothing to stop them from becoming extinct.  Koba and Caeser’s belief’s begin to stray far from each other, and it will soon tear them apart.

Director Matt Reeves who is responsible for directing the English language version of Let Me In, and Cloverfield does a hell of a job here framing this amazing story.  He’s able to blend lots of high-level action with all of the drama and suspense of these two cultures, without being heavy handed at all.  He keeps the film rooted in the two camps of ape and human for the majority of the film, focusing on the story at hand.  He’s only worried about what’s happening at these local origins as opposed to the greater world around, and moves forward at the perfect pace.  He builds towards the perfect climax.

It’s really refreshing and extremely entertaining to be presented with a film like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for a number of reasons.  First of all remakes are usually terrible, and that’s definitely not the case here.  Secondly, the nature of action films is to be formulaic, also not the case.  It is very rare for an action/sci-fi film to examine deeper elements of humanity and not feel overbearing.

Grade: A