Greetings! Well, it has been quite nice to be back and writing again in the Blogosphere, and especially when it involves my favorite of subjects….movies! So, as you’ve read previously, this Summer has seemed a tad slow compared to last year’s bombast of films, and the larger “event” movies I’ve been looking forward to have mostly disappointed rather than pleased me. So needless to say, I was ready for both a NEW movie to see AND an epic “event” film that would live up to its expectations. FINALLY….by golly the perseverance paid off…..and a film arrived that ultimately SURPASSED my expectations! With this, I give you “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”.
The sequel to the 2011 reboot of the series, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“, this Matt Reeves-directed entry starts around 10 years after the events of the first film, as the ALZ-113 Virus has all but knocked out the human world population and the apes at ground zero in San Francisco have ultimately created a world of their own, complete with a functioning societal structure and physical home in the forests outside the city, thanks largely in part to their leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis). It even becomes apparent how important the human-like qualities of loyalty, love, and family has become over time, again, all due to the leadership Caesar has provided. A beginning hunting sequence establishes this even more, and we witness that Caesar himself has a family in his mate, Cornelia (Judy Greer), and a son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston). At this point, humans have been perceived as having perished from the face of the Earth. But when an initial and unexpected encounter occurs in the woodland to shatter this notion, the chain of events seems about to spin out of control. A surviving group of humans actually live in San Francisco, founded by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke), who also has his wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to watch over among the myriad of inhabitants. Malcolm’s insistence on communicating with the apes and creating an understanding and peace with them is seen as impractical given circumstances that have unfolded, but there is a resource in the ape’s territory that the humans need to survive, and so an uneasy truce is made to accommodate this need. But as with any group or society, there are those who continue to think such alliance is still foolhardy, including Carver (Kirk Acevedo) on the human side and one of the apes who knows all to well what humans are capable of, Koba (Toby Kebbell), whose poisonous attitudes begin to weed their way into the ape colony. And as events transpire, even with the breakthroughs Malcolm and his family are able to make with Caesar, the other factions have nefarious ideas to execute and things DO spin out of control, threatening to undo everything Malcolm has tried to accomplish. What follows is a majorly potent blend of action, drama, tragedy, victory, pathos, and depth of character-building that I know I did NOT fully expect to experience in the film. Getting into the nitty gritty details any more would, in my estimation, give away plot points and turning points in the movie, and you all know I continue to strive for that spoiler-free environment with these reviews. If your interest is piqued by now, I personally say you need to go see the film.
THIS was the epic kind of Summer film I had so desperately wanted again. It then went so far beyond what I had hoped for that it made the experience even better! The level of connection I felt, that sense of really BEING “in” the film as it were was SO awesome to feel, as it tells me the writers, actors, and director have ALL done their jobs to the best degree. Visually lush, the world as it stands during this movie is brought to vivid life, even when you would normally take the scenery of woodlands and the ruins of San Francisco for granted as perhaps NOT being that exciting. But in this movie’s case, it IS all a part of the greater tale being shown and told to us. Andy Serkis has become THE unrivaled master of motion capture characters, and his performance as Caesar in this outing trumps the first film in leaps and bounds. He brings such depth to a CGI ape that you swear Caesar was actually there standing in front of the camera acting! You just SEE every little way Caesar is feeling at a given moment and it happens with such clarity, you DO forget on several levels that this IS a CGI ape! And not only Caesar, but ALL of the apes you see on a frequent basis have that same presence on screen….you actually feel what they’re feeling, drawn into their world even as so many factors threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked to build. Jason Clarke is a wonderful actor, and he plays Malcom realistically and with genuine emotion, as a man torn between two worlds, the one he already knows and the one he’s now been exposed to and has a greater understanding of. Oldman plays the type of character he often does, and does it well, mind you….Dreyfus is someone who you might initially trust, but once things go a way he doesn’t like, you begin to see what he is REALLY like. Supporting roles by Russell and McPhee are solid as Malcom’s family, and they make the struggle they also face with realistic fervor. But again, the real genius here are the apes themselves. Koba is the epitome of evil really, even though some if his hatred of humans is justified (see the first film), and Kebbell eats up scenery in the role. Supporting turns for Greer as Caesar’s mate and Thurston as his son are very well done, as well as Orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), ape Rocket (Terry Notary), and Koba’s son and best friend to Blue Eyes, Ash (Larramie Doc Shaw). And NONE of the ape’s emotions are overdone or silly. It all comes across exactly the way it should and to the level and extent it should. But it is also the depth given to this overall story and how it is executed that provide the emotional roller-coaster ride the film offers and I just know I found myself captured by it from beginning to end, and THAT is what I want from these big Summer outings. So this is a TOTAL winner for me without question and definitely one of the best films this Summer has to offer.
As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!