Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

     Are there more important things in life than movies? I'm not sure. I had this past week off of work. I originally intended to use this time wisely—exercise, spend some time with friends and family, make a dent in my summer schoolwork—but instead, I kind of just sat at home watching a ton of movies via Netflix and listening to weird music (and playing weird video games don't judge me). I watched The Machinist, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Following. I would strongly recommend all three. Since they are older films, I feel like I shouldn't review them because this blog is about more current ones, but if my masses of fans want to see some reviews then feel free to comment that. Here are some songs you could listen to while reading this, if you're feeling it (this is a Mount Kimbie minimix thats 20 mins long).

     In an effort to compensate for my poor timing before Edge of Tomorrow, I arrived at the theater early for Dawn. Perhaps a bit too early. I had to kill 20 minutes on iPhone games while waiting to sit down for trailers. But when the film started I was immediately impressed. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened with a stunning and concise montage explaining the events between the ending of Rise and the beginning of Dawn: most humans die out and governments collapse due to the spread of the simian virus. It was a clever and beautiful way to spew exposition, and I didn't mind it at all. But then, queue 20 minutes of Apes talking and being smart? this footage didn't really do what I think it wanted to do. The audience knows how intelligent the apes have become from the first film, they don't need a very long sequence showing off their new brainpower. There is some very touching but painfully obvious parallels between the apes and men, i.e. father son bonding, making it abundantly clear that apes are becoming more like humans, but being a bit too transparent about it ("think before you act, son"). It's all good and fine, but I think it would have been more mysterious and powerful had the opening just tracked the humans' expedition into the forest, only to discover that there is that whole colony of evolved apes living there. Maybe that would have even helped me form a connection to the human characters which was lacking during the film's entirety.

     Before the summer started, I was faced with a very tough decision: do I watch dinosaur transformers or do I watch apes on horses shooting guns? Rotten Tomatoes helped me make the decision: not even Marky Mark can save that franchise. However, Matt Reeves, the new director for Dawn, found a way to build upon the success of Rupert Wyatt's Rise, while also making a completely different film. In Rise, we saw a relationship story between a young, naive Caesar and James Franco. This installment established the grounds for the virus as well as the building blocks for the "monkey uprising". But what made it so special was the real emotion between man and ape. And this is what Reeves did very well in Dawn. He lacks in the human to human and even ape to ape connection, though not for lack of trying. But there really was magic in the formerly mentioned circumstance.
I was very impressed with Jason Clarke (Malcolm), whom we've seen a bit of talent from in Zero Dark Thirty, and unsurprisingly impressed by the insanely talented Andy Serkis (Caesar). Together, they go from enemies to brothers, and Malcolm shows Caesar that his ignorant loyalty to his own species is unwise. But most importantly, the two made me feel double the emotion than any same-species interaction did, which I think is so important and aligned with the whole message of the film.

     Let's talk about the two assholes of the movie. Such a cliche to have a character who is so stubborn, selfish, or stupid that they alone can ruin things for everyone else. Some examples: Iceman inadvertently killing Goose, Frodo almost turning on Sam, Cypher betraying the matrix squad... In Dawn, we get two of them: Carver and Koba. If these two didnt exist, the humans and apes could live together. Period. But, you know, evil human is evil. He has to shoot the first ape and bring a gun when
he knows he's not supposed to. And, you know, evil ape is evil. He has to steal guns and usurp the simian throne. And I know that these sequences are completely necessary plot drivers, but it just pisses me off so much when things could go right but one dude ruins it for the rest. On top of that, there are so many damn miscommunications that could be solved if the apes weren't so stubborn. We know you're primal, but do you really need to scream and hit things at the slightest hint of a red herring? It's obnoxious.

    Can we talk about the CGI for a second? It really blew me away. It's one thing to have, for example, a werewolf flick with one really well done monster, fully detailed in every shot. But in Dawn, the crew transformed actors in body suits into some very convincing apes. On a massive scale. While Maurice, Koba, and Caesar got their fair share of close up screen time, it was the large battles and scenes with upwards of 200 weapon yielding monkeys that showed off the prowess of our technological advancement. Comparing this type of filmmaking to the 1968 Planet of the Apes, which at the time, received world acclaim for its makeup effects, is like comparing a Tesla to a horse drawn carriage. And I know there are some people out there who don't like CGI, and would rather have the makeup of the old days, then they don't deserve the awe-inducing talent of computer geniuses. One last thing though. I want to say a thing or two about the two big names in this film: Gary Oldman and Keri Russel.
Coulda used a Dark Knight
Basically, every human besides Clarke and Oldman was pointless to the plot. Especially Keri Russel. She brought nothing but a whiney attitude and a very fake phd. In fact, every time she opened her mouth, I just didn't listen, because I knew it would be unimportant. Shut up, Keri Russel. Oldman was fine. Until he turned into a dick. Then, I didn't like Oldman.

This dark epic, while lacking in human emotion, excelled in computer imagery and showed real interspecies compassion while making me legitimately worried about a simian uprising.

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