Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I, for one, welcome our new ape overlords!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 5 out of 5

The Planet of the Apes films, while I always found entertaining, seemed to be a Creationists’ nightmare. Evolution—whether it be through time travel paradoxes or science (depending on which Apes story you go with)—is running amok and allowing the species that we share a common lineage with (much to the chagrin of Creationists—‘I don’t come from no monkey!’) to suddenly rise up and become the dominate species on the planet and putting their damn dirty paws all over us as we are killed off and kicked down a few pegs on the top rated species on the planet listit must just be awful for them to watch. Other than the reality that Glenn Beck and Alex Jones are thinking that these films are documentaries (having a clip of Obama in this film doesn’t help their delusional behavior) or act as warning of things to come for these types of dudes, I really enjoy these movies and, I have to say, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes might be the greatest film about an ape-dominated world yet.

                                                                                                            20th Century Fox
Gawd damn...this is so badass that just looking at it gave me a black eye and
a nosebleed.

                                                                                 20th Century Fox
"What do they mean, 'That's our word?
I can't say 'monkey?'"
Ten years have passed since the Ape Planet started to rise and 90% of the world’s human population has died out from the simian flu. During all this, our super-intelligent ape friend from the first film; Caesar (Andy Serkis), has formed a society of his equally intelligent ape brethren and are living peacefully. However, after a chance encounter with some surviving humans, Caesar suddenly finds himself at an impasse as he must protect his family but he must also help the humans in order to keep them from their homeland. While Caesar works peacefully with a man named Malcolm (Jason Clarke), former test lab ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) fumes over the shaky alliance and fears that the weapons the human society has stocked piled will mean war with the apes. Simultaneously, human settlement leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) mirrors Koba’s feelings and prepares his men for the inevitable war. Then, as Caesar starts to bond with Malcolm, the battle the pits man versus apes is sparked and hell soon follows…

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Pictured:  Hell soon about to follow...

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pretty awesome reboot and restart to the classic Sci-Fi franchise of the 70s. Its new origin to how the apes took over was solid as solid origins can be. Additionally, it was tremendously acted with James Franco and Andy Serkis making mo-cap his bitch by breathing so much life into the CG ape that it was really easy to lose yourself in the character and forget that it wasn’t a computer generated image being acted by a flesh and blood person. I was a little more than excited for Dawn and the trailers sold something that looked both emotional and epic…and it delivered on both!

                                                                                                            20th Century Fox
The image that keeps Glenn Beck and your Conservative Uncle up all night.

I thought the special effects in the last film were incredible but they are so much better in this one. Every single ape looks real and like they were physically on set. Even down to having rain water bead on their fur, the attention to detail with the apes and their society is ridiculously meticulous and completely awe-inspiring. This is no longer people in rubber costumes with mouths that only go up and down in an attempt to mimic talking, this felt real and looked like these apes were actually there and getting direction from director Matt Reeves. However, great specials are cool and all but if the apes only look good and can’t really carry a scene, then only half the battle is won. Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the case (they did, after all, have Serkis around to kick ass).

                                                                                                              20th Century Fox
What makes this shot cooler is knowing that Ape Nazgul are on the banks
of the river refusing to cross it.

Since I first saw Serkis bring Gollum to life in The Two Towers, I’ve been clamoring for him to win an Oscar because the man fucking deserves it. “But Rev., the animators make the character in the computer and he’s really just motion-captured so they can digitally paint over him.” If you think that way, go straight to hell right now because it isn’t that easy. If it was, Serkis wouldn’t be the master of it the way he is. Sure, the animators can make a character look real but if the character has no soul or weight to them (Cough*Jar Jar*Cough), then all you’re looking at is something that was rendered pretty awesomely in a computer but, ultimately, has no soul. That’s what Serkis brings. He gives the character life by giving them a presence that no computer program can do. The animators work off the rich palate that Serkis creates with his performance and, when the two come together, you have a character that looks fantastic and is acting better than some real performers out there.

                                                                                                             20th Century Fox
"Now, if you'll excuse us, we have our barbershop quartet practice to get to."

Due to Serkis’ talent, Caesar isn’t just some animated character for the humans to awkwardly interact with—he is a character and is capable of eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. I won’t lie, Serkis’ performance as the highly intelligent ape brought tears to my eyes on several occasions because Serkis was just that convincing and that capable of showing off an emotional response. To say that Serkis was incredible as Caesar doesn’t do him justice. Even if I add an F-bomb before the word “incredible” isn’t enough for me to describe just how blown away I was with Serkis’ performance and the animators ability to bring his performance to life. Serkis deserved the top billing in the credits but, more importantly, he deserves an Academy Award for his performance because, as a CGI character, he is able to portray far more emotions than a lot of flesh and blood actors are capable of.
                                                                                                              20th Century Fox
I'm not crying looking at this.  I'm not crying.

I don’t want to sell the rest of the ape cast short either because they were all incredible and really made each and every single one of them a character to watch. Whether it be Toby Kebbell as the devious and angry Koba or Judy Greer in her limited role as Caesar’s mate Cornelia (hey, that name sounds oddly familiar) or the actors who portrayed Caesar’s son Blue Eyes or the apes Ash, Rocket and, my personal favorite, Maurice the orangutan, they were all so amazing to watch and the animators did a fantastic job of making them look frighteningly realistic.

                                                                                                           20th Century Fox
This scene added a little more "frightening" to the mix.

The human cast was also compiled of great performances—mainly from Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. Sure, we now know that Oldman is just a crotchety old man who seems to hate his craft and is all for saying bad things about Jews, but the old fart can act his living brains out and, despite the fact his screen time is limited, you really come to hate him for being so Anti-Ape (he probably channeled his buddy Mel Gibson and his hatred of Jews to do this) and you can’t wait for him to get his metaphoric monkey poo thrown in his face…and by “monkey poo thrown in his face” I mean “see him die.”

                                                                                                            20th Century Fox
"Let's stop these Liberal Jews--I mean, apes."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also sees the first time that I’ve actually seen Jason Clarke—and actor I used to not think too much of—give off a truly impressive performance. Until now, I’ve always seen Clarke play very generic, one-dimensional characters that lean towards the annoying side. I’ve never seen him give a performance that required any emotion beyond scenery chewing but now, in this film, I actually saw that he has the talent and ability to make a character interesting and sympathetic. His performance as Malcolm was just awesome and the scenes he shares with Caesar nearly single-handedly make the film. This movie, and his role, really made me change my stance on him and I definitely will start paying more attention to him in the future.

                                                                                                            20th Century Fox
The mixed expressions of people who either were or were not prepared for the
group photo.

                                                                                  20th Century Fox
"Ape shooting me in the face" might actually be a way
I'd be willing to go.
Dawn is just a powerful and emotional film—and I know that sounds weird considering it is a movie that is all about hyper-intelligent apes getting into a tiff with humans in a post-apocalyptic society. Each organization has something going on that you can sympathize with. Whether it be Caesar trying to protect his family and his society and slowly understanding that his group is no different than the other or be it Malcolm who discovers that the group he was taught to hate is far more complicated than he ever expected, it was very easy to understand the trials the characters were faced with. Hell, even the film’s villains were sympathetic in their own way. Sure, Dreyfus and Koba want to see their group kill the other but you get why they feel that way and understand how they’ve come to hold such grudges. The story is already interesting and easily engaging but the film really understood how to hit that right dramatic note, and the emotion that unfolds in the running length made an already interesting film capable of being complete encapsulating and addicting. The movie uses its drama so well that it was just as captivating to watch a scene where we see Caesar and Koba argue over the possibility of going to war or see Malcolm and Caesar start to connect as it was to see the war between the humans and apes unfold.

                                                                                                             20th Century Fox
It just goes to show you, it doesn't matter if you are ape or human, it will always
come down to a game of "pull my finger."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was exciting, dramatic, emotional and filled with amazing camera work and visual splendor with its effects. It builds tremendously on the previous film and ends on a completely awesome shot that has me geared up and ready to go for the next release in the franchise. I walked out of the theater with absolutely no complaints about the film because it was put together so well.

                                                                                                             20th Century Fox
"Come on, you owe me 5 bucks.  Pay up."

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