Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Year: 2014
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Plot: The virus released at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has wiped out most of the human population. Ten years later, Caesar and a large community of apes live peacefully in the jungle, until they encounter a group of humans who want to activate a dam nearby to restore power in the city. Caesar strikes a partnership with the human Malcolm to allow the dam's repairs, but tension erupts within both sides and a war is imminent.

Review: Rupert Wyatt's Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a solid if not perfect reboot of the Apes franchise. Director Matt Reeves thankfully follows up that film with a marvelous sequel that takes place a decade after the end of it.

Reeves ups the ante by focusing more on the apes than the humans, and rightfully so. The CGI is fantastic when it comes to the apes' movements and facial expressions, thanks to excellent motion capture work from the actors involved. Add to that a superb story that highlights the similarities between man and beast (and the argument on which side is worse) as well as their differences, and you have a near perfect film in your hands.

Andy Serkis, the undisputed king of motion capture acting, is in fine form here as Caesar, showing the excellent balance between strength and vulnerability as a leader. It's mainly thanks to him that the film is as good as it is. Toby Kebbell contrasts him nicely as Koba, the antagonistic ape that grows increasingly restless with Caesar's leadership. Jason Clarke gets the sympathetic human role of Malcolm, and pulls it off well. It's also good to see Kodi Smit-McPhee, now considerably older than he was in Reeves' last film Let Me In, as Malcolm's son here.

Naturally, in a film like this, you can expect a few action sequences, and the last third of the film provide two of those, both executed very well. But to Reeves and writers Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's credit, the story flows smoothly from start to finish, never a moment wasted.

I was a bit disappointed that Gary Oldman, who plays human leader Dreyfus, gets limited screen time here. He's missing for the middle third of the film, and the lack of development for his character, save for a brief tearful scene is unfortunate, considering the amount of talent he has. The lack of female characters here is also quite obvious, with only Keri Russell as Malcolm's wife standing out, and even then she didn't get that much to do. Caesar's mate Cornelia (played by Judy Greer) fares even worse.

But other than that, I must say that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a wonderful entry to a largely underrated franchise. It's a gem of a film, considering how generally underwhelming it's been for summer blockbusters lately. Recommended. (4/5)

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