Saturday, July 26, 2014

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

If you enjoyed 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you're going to friggin love this new installment of the Apes franchise. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of those rare sequels that just annihilates the original in every possible way, like Empire Strikes Back or The Winter Soldier from earlier this year. The first film had a lot of ground to cover and although it was thoroughly entertaining, felt a tad rushed overall. You see the apes being experimented on, watched James Franco (because he always plays James Franco) raise Caesar, yadda yadda yadda, ape revolt in the streets and a civilization ending virus begins spreading. That's a lot of ground they had to cover. Part two doesn't suffer from this, Dawn of the Apes takes place ten years after the events of the first film and is an entirely self contained, world building phenomenon of a film. That, and there's talking apes with machine guns on horseback.

So the simian flu virus has wiped out most of humanity. Caesar and his gang of genetically enhanced apes live in the forests outside San Fransisco, hunting, learning and generally building a pretty chill primate civilization. That is until, they encounter some desperate humans in the woods one day, pitting the wants, needs and personalities of each species at odds with one another. This leads to both external and internal conflicts between apes and human alike. I don't want to spoil the plot because the less you know about the film the better, just hold on for the most surprising film of the summer.

I jokingly implied that Andy Serkis should have received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Caesar in the first film. Now, I'm dead serious...Andy Serkis deserves a best actor nod. Caesar is by far, the most complex, charismatic and down right coolest protagonist I've seen in a big budget Hollywood tentpole film in ages...and he's a CGI chimpanzee for Christ's sake! He's not the only badass this time around either. Advances in motion capture technology, and the plot device where pretty much all the humans are dead, allows for Dawn of the Apes to focus on, you guessed, even more apes! Caesar has a family and a (kind of a wussy) son, they have a little ape school led by Maurice the giant/genius orangutan from the first film and then, there's Koba. He's the freaky looking ape from Rise, with visible scars from years of being abused and experimented on by humans. Well homeboy is back with a vengeance in Dawn of the Apes. He goes from victim of circumstance to full on super villain rather remarkably. Again, I'm trying to keep the plot under wraps as much as possible here, but there is some serious philosophical pondering and straight up historical allusions going on in this film [Reichstag fire anyone?], plus it also has talking apes with machine guns on horseback. It literally has everything.

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