Friday, July 11, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Andy Serkis takes over in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of a New World

'Home. Family, Future.' The big three (take that LeBron) according to chimpanzee extraordinaire Caesar (deliciously portrayed by Andy Serkis.) Seems Caesar has his priorities in order, just 10 years after a deadly virus has wiped out most of the human race. Unfortunately for Caesar and company (not to mention we, the audience) some humans still exist... an oppressively boring group, as luck would have it. Their paths cross in Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes, lies are told, shots are fired and mayhem ensues... slowly. It's not nearly as entertaining as its predecessor (Rupert Wyatt, we miss you) but Reeves' sequel still manages to carve out a visually stunning niche of its own.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

What’s Best: Hail Caesar! Serkis dazzles as Big Man Monkey on Campus, picking up right where he left off in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Kudos for focusing most of the movie on the apes, who finally get to do battle on a level playing field. To be honest, humans (especially these ones) add little to the story, outside of their predictable greed and shoot first, ask questions later mentality. At least Gary Oldman manages to inject some positives for "Homo sapiens, Inc.," offering to 'rebuild and reclaim the world we love.' Too bad we couldn't see more of him and Caesar on screen together.

What’s Not: Instead, we're stuck with a stripped-down version of Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and an annoying teen (Kodi Smit-McPhee as Alexander) who likes to draw (yawn.) What I wouldn't do for James Franco, Freida Pinto or John Lithgow.

Worse yet, the movie stalls on several occasions... stretches of nothingness that precede leader-wannabe Koba (Toby Kebbell) going rogue. That's when things really start to pick up; although the sight of him riding horseback into battle, with guns a blazin' (in both hands, no less) looks downright ridiculous. I can barely keep a straight face when Sly Stallone or Arnold does it, but an ape with less than 24 hours of shooting experience?

On a side note, Earth seems to really take a beating in this one. 10 years is a long time, but long enough to turn San Francisco into Wrigley Field? Even Caesar's childhood home looks centuries old... on the inside.

Best Line: Considering it's 131 minutes long, not too many words are spoken. Caesar proves less is more however, when he shares his opinion on humans with trusted pal Maurice (Karin Konoval) 'Good. Bad. Doesn't matter now.' Amen Caesar!

Overall: The early word on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is almost all positive; but I have to stand up for the 2011 "original." It's a better film with better acting, and honestly... more believable CGI. Dawn is good on its own, but Reeves had very big shoes to fill, and ultimately comes up a tad short in filling them. Trim 20-30 minutes, ditch the 3D effects (once again, totally unnecessary) and find some way to make the humans more interesting, and you have the makings of a terrific sequel. Still worth watching, but color me slightly disappointed.