Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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APE TOGETHER STRONG. APE NOT KILL APE. When you have Apes who can speak and sign, clearly you’re not dealing with any ordinary Apes. Like humans, Apes have leadership positions and specific roles within their groups, which all help to create an effective atmosphere. Whether they’re out hunting, or gathering, the Apes are still reflective of humans in so many ways. This should be common knowledge, since we humans did evolve over time and because Apes are our closest relatives of another species. We may look down on them because of how they act, but we’re foolish to do so because they’re superior in strength and don’t need the commodities that we do. Just imagine if they were just as intelligent as us?

CAESAR STRONG
CAESAR STRONG

10 years ago, almost 90% of the world’s population died after the Simian Flu spread across the world. The flu originated from Apes that were held captive and were tested on, whom eventually broke free and went to live in the Redwood forest. Since then, their leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) has spent his time colonizing the trees and educating a race of hyper-intelligent Apes that can understand sign language and pick-up on human language. With his right-hand-ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) at his side, Caesar keeps the peace, until a group of surviving humans happens upon a couple of Apes, resulting in one being shot. Of course, the Apes all want to kill the humans, but Caesar is unsure of their numbers and doesn’t want to lose any of his Apes to the human guns. While all humans are viewed poorly by the Apes, Caesar reluctantly trusts Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his wife and son (Keri Russell & Kodi Smit-McPhee).

The humans are living in a colony within the San Francisco area and are trying to reach a nearby dam that will hopefully restore power to the area. Unfortunately for them, the dam is located on the Apes’ turf and the Apes, especially Koba, are reluctant to trust the humans. At the same time, the colonies co-founder Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) expresses his concern for his people and knows that they have enough firepower to wipe the Apes out, if need be. Tensions are high as Ape and human try to work together, especially because many members of both sides only see the bad in the others. Caesar tries to keep the peace as long as he can, but war almost seems inevitable and it’s up to the few who believe in coexistence to prevent bloodshed

Quite the pickle.
Quite the pickle.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the most serious blockbuster of the summer and it easily ranks among the best. Combing the most jaw-dropping VFX, an intelligent script, and a captivating story, this film succeeds on nearly every level and certainly entertains in every possible way. I was astounded by how phenomenal this film was and the dedication the filmmakers put into a big risk that more than paid off in the end. The care that went into crafting this film earned my respect instantly and I believe wholeheartedly that this is one of the most-unique films you’ll see all Summer, and even all year.

My absolute favorite aspect of this film is that it’s predominately about the Apes and only partially about the humans. Nearly the first 45 minutes is all about the Apes, how Caesar has started to build a colony, and the political system that they’ve started to establish. They hunt with war paint on, they teach one another sign language and some English, and they preach “Ape No Kill Ape”. We get a glimpse into their familial lives and how Caesar handles his leadership role. The humans eventually come in to play, but they get far less screen time than the Apes, which is how it should be. It’s fascinating watching the Apes stick up for their own and debate over whether or not they should attack the humans, but ultimately following the strong-willed Caesar. Kudos to this film for believing in a story that focuses on the Apes and portrays them as people/characters, rather than second-hand animals that the humans have to deal with. Based off of those first 45 minutes, I firmly believe that they could make a film just about the Apes and it’d be outstanding.

APES WITH GUNS!
APES WITH GUNS!

Visual Effects and Motion Capture Technology have reached an all-time high, as every Ape we focus on is an actor doing his role in a suit with rubber balls and a mounted camera. You simply can’t deny how life-like these Apes look and the performances, notably Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell’s, are real acting. Many people say that motion capture isn’t acting, but you can’t tell me that when you see the raw emotion on the faces of Caesar and Koba, which are only there because of how Serkis and Kebbell are emoting. Their every movement and facial expression is recording and digitized and it really does show when we see their Apes react to something happening in the film. I also freaked out in my seat when I saw Apes shooting guns, riding horses, and beating the living crap out of humans. I mean, everything looks so realistic and your first thought is that everyone is in a costume (which there were none of in the film). The hair on their fur, the scars on their bodies, and their jagged teeth all show exquisite detail, fooling you every step of the way.

Story-wise, this film is a fantastic follow-up Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which touched upon and started to elaborate on how advanced these Apes could become. After most of the humans were wiped out, it’s normal that they’d want power. The Apes want to live in peace, but the resentment against the humans for capturing and torturing them adds an emotional level to this film that almost makes you side with the Apes 100% of the time. It’s Serkis and Clarke who are the level-headed, head honchos that attempt to keep the peace and attempt to make coexistence possible. I fully understood both sides of the argument and was never certain of which direction the film would go. The “antagonists” of this film, Koba and Carver aren’t really all that bad , but their experiences with the other species prompt them to violence at the drop of a hat. Both sides just want the chance to rebuild and protect what’s left of their group and I loved this and how it’s dealt with in the film. As a human, you find humanity, in its best and worst forms, in both the Apes and the humans.

Motion Capture and Acting at its highest.
Motion Capture and Acting at its highest.

While the first two acts deal with exploring how the Apes and humans live and could possibly coexist, the final act deals with all out war between the two groups. Guns are the only thing that give the humans a slight advantage when it comes to battle, because the Apes are stronger by nature and as mentioned by one of the characters, “They don’t need power. Lights, heat, nothing. That’s their advantage. That’s what makes them strong.” Now, picture what happens when Apes get their hands on guns and start rounding up humans as prisoners. The Apes still hold true to following a strong leader and that battle that ensues between species is really something spectacular to watch unfold. Apes on horses with shotguns… What’s not to love with that? Now, not every Ape is bad and neither is every human, which is something that Clarke and Serkis attempt to stress. Some really great messages come out of this film and it gives you a lot to think about.

I can’t say enough about how truly remarkable this film is. I applaud it for its bold choice to focus the story on the apes and give us time away from humans (whom we see in literally every movie ever). Though Transformers: Age of Extinction set the bar for VFX not two weeks ago, it has clearly lost that title to a far superior film. You’re not going to see more subtly perfect effects in any film this year, so please appreciate how revolutionary this film is for the world of film and VFX. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an intelligent film that builds rapidly in terms of action, intensity, and characters. This film is up there with the likes of Edge of Tomorrow for being refreshing Sci-Fi that manages to take aspects of other Sci-Fi elements and turn them into something glorious. Please don’t go into this film expecting all out war, because this film actually cares about its story and characters. I’ll take an intelligent blockbuster with some action, over a mindless blockbuster with no story any day of the week.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sHMCRaS3ao

4.5 STARS!!!

4.5 / 5 stars     

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