Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Movie Review - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman
Year: 2014

When I first saw the trailer for this film I began to think that I may have made a mistake.  I had shunned the first in the reboot series assuming that it was bad.  After all, the Marky Mark remake was awful, why wouldn't the James Franco prequel be as well?  And I'm a big fan of the original movies; these ones couldn't possibly be as good.  But the trailer for this film was enough to get me intrigued as to the new take on the old story.  So I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It may not have been incredible, and yes Franco sucked, but Caesar the ape was so exceptional that I was hooked for as many movies as they wanted to make.  He stole the show and made the flaws of the film fade into the background.  What could Andy Serkis do with another movie, one that didn't cast a pothead as a neuroscientist?

You have got to see Rise in order to understand this film, so go back and watch it if you haven't and you're reading this review.  Consider that a spoiler alert.  Anyway.  Dawn is a look into the future, a bleak time for mankind.  The virus accidentally released by Will's second attempt to cure Alzheimer's has gone global, decimating the human population.  War follows, famine, societal breakdown, you name it.  And meanwhile, Caesar and his band of super-intelligent apes are flourishing.  Their community has been growing and advancing, taking advantage of the lack of human contact.  But when a group of survivors from San Francisco stumble upon the apes, tensions return immediately to a high level.  Some members of both species just want to leave the others alone, while others want to eliminate their competitors before all out war breaks out.  But war may be inevitable, as a dominant species needs to make itself known in a world wiped clean and awaiting a master race.

Let's talk about the story first.  It's awesome.  If you enjoyed the movies of the 70s you'll know the basic premise; that apes eventually evolve to be the dominant species, that humans return to their animal roots, and that the planet is no longer ours.  It's a pretty kick-ass sci-fi storyline, one that worked over a large number of films and apparently never really got old.  And even knowing how the plot will eventually play out, I still found myself enjoying the story.  Civilization is so fragile when you examine it closely, and this film does that in a quick & brutal way that's frighteningly refreshing to see on screen.  No one is the good guy here, everyone is just trying to survive.  Some think cooperation affords them the best chance of advancement, others think war will win them the future.  Who's to say which side is right; it may not even matter.  When two groups that are so different find themselves fighting for the same goal, can they ever get along, or is it necessary that one side win?

You could spend a lot of time examining the themes raised in the film, enjoying it for that reason alone.  But there's still an entertainment value needed to keep our attention, and man did they ever keep mine.  The film is pure adrenaline, not throw-away action, but intense scene after intense scene all sculpted to make audiences understand how desperate the times depicted are.  You root, you cringe, you despair; it's a wild ride if ever there was one.  And Caesar is there the whole way through to guide you through the chaos.  Caesar is the star of the film, he's the catalyst, the leader, the hero, the reason to watch.  I loved him in the first film; he topped himself here.  Andy Serkis does an amazing job portraying this epic ape, and the team in charge of animation should win all the Oscars there are.  The emotions portrayed are so basic and so honest, coming across clearly and shedding a revealing light on the "complex" emotions we love to define ourselves by.  If you want to feel all-important and unbeatable as a species don't watch this film.  At times it doesn't make humanity seem all that special or noble.  We often look like beasts, imagine that.  Dawn is an excellent film, taking an established storyline, combining stellar acting with cool technology, and rolling out a product that is both highly entertaining and wonderfully intriguing.  A must see.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆