Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I liked it.  I liked it a whole lot.  I smiled as I walked out of the theater and passed by the next audience as they waited their turn, because I knew they were going to see something special.  It wasn’t always that way.  Though the movie begins with a very atmospheric tone and it is full of beauty and wonder, it takes a bit more time than I am used to for the story to arise.  Because of that, my wife walked out early.  I stayed, because– while it was slow to progress– I wasn’t in any kind of a rush and I still felt compelled to keep watching.

In no time my patience was rewarded, because once the plot is set into motion it is absolutely riveting cinema.  I Loved Rise but Dawn has a very distinct Planet of the apes quality.  We spend more time with the apes as they begin their civilization and are able to see crucial actions that seal the planet’s destiny (I was admonished by a reader a few years ago when I revealed that the planet was indeed Earth, so I won’t do that again.  Oops.).

The film is rich in beauty and theatrics.  It was like “Shakespeare in the Forest”  I am impressed with how far the franchise, and indeed sci-fi films in general (if you look to the right examples) have come in terms of clear vision.  Where fantasy once was vague, where panels and cels once had limited illustrations drawn to suggest, or imply a setting, we now have the ability to breath full life into a thing and experience it in a way that feels real and therefore makes more accessible it’s hidden truths.

I think the limitations in the past in adapting a work of science fiction have largely been due to lack of contextual information.  I think we can see this in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.  While Burton is next to none in the imagination department and his designs were wonderful, the film lacked the sense of relevance the most recent films have given.  Could be that the element of mystery involved prior to Rise prohibited too much contextualizing, but the new story arc is all the better because of that shattered barrier.

With absolutely splendid photography and sets, digital effects and a haunting score by the prodigious Michael Giacchino we are given an all access pass to an intriguing and eerily familiar alternate reality and we get to bear witness to history in the making as Caesar and his kind face their greatest trial yet and the fate of the relationship between Man and Ape hangs in the balance.

I think it goes without saying at this point how Andy Serkis’ character work bonds so well to the mo-cap technology and the expressiveness of the apes is awe inspiring.  What may yet go unspoken, or at least not praised highly enough is the performance of Toby Kebbell, a 32 year old actor I’ve never heard of before, but look forward to seeing again as Victor Von Doom in next year’s Fantastic Four.  Toby steals the movie as Koba, a scarred and tortured ape saved by Caesar and ruled by an unforgiving malice toward humanity to the extend that his bond with Caesar is severely tested.  If Sylvester Stallone makes an Expendables 4, it absolutely must include Koba.  Make it happen, Hollywood.

 

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