Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

                                      In A Good Way, These 'Apes' Had Me Going Bananas
                      Pathos: a Greek term for the word emotion. Very rarely do we see blockbusters or sci-fi films project pathos to their main characters, in my opinion. The few recent examples I can think of are this film and X-Men: Days of Future Past. But not only does the film project pathos onto its human characters, but its primate characters as well, thanks in part to the writing as well as the acting.
                       Dawn of the Planet of the Apes follows the aftermath of the events of its predecessor where apes and humans have reached a special truce after the plague known as "Simian Flu" has wiped out a good portion of humanity. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is living in peace with his family and fellow apes until the arrival of a group of humans slowly causes the peace to be disrupted and war begins to erupt.

                      What I Liked About It:
                     First off, one thing I absolutely loved was the performance by Andy Serkis. For a motion capture performance, Serkis is able to bring emotional gravitas to his portrayal of the main simian, along with his fellow actors who play Caesar's fellow apes. One in particular that stood out is Toby Kebbell, who plays Caesar's henchman turned enemy named Koba. It is amazing how Kebbell goes from faithful servant to skeptic to anarchist and I thought he actually stole the film. Another thing I loved was how we see both sides of the coin. In other words, we see the point of view of the humans and get a glimpse of the apes and how they live. We even see the point of view of Caesar's son conflicted son Blue Eyes played by Nick Thurston as well as Gary Oldman's anti-hero character named Dreyfus, who you sort of detest but eventually understand his flaws. Of course, Oldman was great. Jason Clarke, who plays the main human protagonist Malcolm is really as well and I liked how they didn't portray his character as the heroic Hollywood type, but more as an average guy who just wants things to be right in the world. Keri Russell plays his love interest and I liked how they didn't make her character a useless damsel that screams a lot or anything like that. Russell plays a very sympathetic character and like Clarke and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Malcolm's son Alexander, really makes you want to be on her side.

                    Another thing I liked and thought was interesting was how they played upon the idea of father-son relationships. The film focuses on Caesar's relationship with his son torn between his loyalties to his father and Koba, who slowly acts as the devil on his shoulders. Plus, there is even a scene where Alexander is communicating with an ape about a comic book he is reading and Malcolm observes, indicating that he is somewhat of a parallel to his father since they both are trying to make peace with the apes. I also thought the action scenes were quite neat and the plot point of the humans trying to get the apes to fix the fuel in their broken city. That kind of thing hasn't really been dealt with before in post-apocalyptic films. The whole idea of running low on fuel and electricity, so I thought that was interesting.

                  What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a real sci-fi gem that is not only one of the best films to come out this year but is one of the best sequels to come out in recent memory that also manages to work as a stand alone film as well. It has fantastic acting from its cast, especially the actors playing the apes, as well as tremendous acting and emotional gravitas to the film as a whole.

Grade: A+


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