Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Matt Reeves and screenplay by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes where the ape Caesar and a human being try to forge a peace treaty between the apes and humans only to be undone by forces from both sides. The film is an exploration into a group of humans trying to survive and make peace with a group of apes while Caesar deals with his role as a leader as Andy Serkis reprises his role as the ape. Also starring Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, Toby Kebbell, and Gary Oldman. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a tremendous film from Matt Reeves.

Taking place more than a decade after the events of the previous film where a virus nearly wiped out humanity, the film is about Caesar and his family of apes dealing with the presence of surviving humans as Caesar doesn’t want a war as he and a man try to create peace between the two. Yet, Caesar’s attempt to create peace with the humans would be undone by one of his own in Koba (Toby Kebbell) who never trusted humans as he begins to question Caesar’s loyalty towards apes. While it’s a film with a simple premise, there is so much more as it plays to the theme of family as Caesar tries to hold on to his own family as his eldest son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) is caught between his father’s teachings and Koba’s methods. Especially as the human that Caesar meets in Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is trying to help humanity and his own family as it would remind Caesar of his own past.

The film’s screenplay explores the world of family as Caesar and his band of apes live in the woods where they are able to survive without electricity and all sorts of things that humans need as many follow Caesar’s teachings of apes together be stronger than anything or anyone. Yet, that is put to the test once the apes learn that there are a large group of humans that have survived where Caesar wants to ensure them that they don’t want a war. Though Malcolm and his wife Ellie (Keri Russell) along with his son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) would go to the apes’ home with a few humans to revive an old dam so that humans can have power again to survive. Caesar was a bit reluctant to trust them but understands that Malcolm actually means well though Koba is still suspicious thanks to a distrustful associate of Malcolm. Koba’s actions would definitely drive the film’s second act as he would do things that would have Caesar question everything himself as a war is about to happen with Koba leading the apes and a military leader in Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) leading the survivors.

Matt Reeves’ direction is typical of what is expected in a blockbuster film but he infuses it with not just a lot of great visuals and elaborate set pieces. He balances it with some real drama where it is about the apes and humans trying to create peace. While Reeves does use a lot of wide shots and some amazing tracking and crane shots for some of the film’s action scenes as well as the first battle between apes and humans. He also goes for close-ups and medium shots to play into the drama and also forge a bond between Caesar and Malcolm that reminds Caesar of his own past. Especially in the third act where Malcolm and his family would help Caesar as it proves some big revelations about the ideas of the world and how important family is as it relates to Caesar’s own relationship with Blue Eyes. Reeves knows when to put some moments that are quite cheerful in a film that is very dark and bleak at times. Even as it does play into this climax where Caesar would have to stop Koba from wreaking havoc and Malcolm stopping Dreyfus from creating more trouble as Dreyfus’s actions is motivated by fear. Overall, Reeves crafts a very compelling and thrilling film about apes and humans trying to live together in peace only to succumb to fear and hate.

Cinematographer Michael Seresin does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic yet desolate look of the scenes set in the forests to the more stylized yet entrancing shots of the cities set at night. Editors William Hoy and Stan Salfas do fantastic work with the editing from the opening credits montage to reveal what happened in the events leading to the film as well as some rhythmic cuts for the action where it doesn‘t deviate from fast-cutting editing styles. Production designer James Chinlund, with set decorator Amanda Moss Serino and supervising art director Naaman Marshall, does superb work with the look of the forest homes that the apes live in to the ruined houses and fortresses the humans live in.

Costume designer Melissa Bruning does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual for what the humans wear. Visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri does brilliant work with the visual effects from the motion-capture look of the apes where it has an air of realism in the way they look in the performances as well as some of the set dressing for what San Francisco would look like in the future following the virus epidemic. Sound designers Will Files and Douglas Murray do amazing work with the sound from some of the sound effects as well as the apes sound and some of the moments in the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is incredible as the score is filled with some thrilling orchestral themes that are full of unique string and percussive arrangements as well as some bombastic themes for the action scenes.

The casting by Debra Zane is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Jon Eyez and Enrique Murciano as a couple of Malcolm’s associates who would help him restore the dam as they gained the trust of the apes, Kirk Acevedo as another associate of Malcolm who would get the group in trouble as well as he doesn’t trust the apes, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Malcolm’s son Alexander who would befriend the orangutan Maurice through his drawing and love of books. In the small role of the apes, there’s Judy Greer as Caesar’s wife Cornelia, Terry Notary as Caesar’s friend Rocket, Doc Shaw as Rocket’s son Ash who is Blue Eyes’ best friend, and Karin Konoval as Maurice who is Caesar’s closest advisor and one of the few who knows that human beings aren’t really so bad. Nick Thurston is terrific as Caesar and Cornelia’s eldest son Blue Eyes who becomes torn with the ideas of his father and Koba’s actions as he would see up close into the latter’s actions as Thurston would be one of the few apes to actually speak. Keri Russell is excellent as Malcolm’s wife Ellie as a former doctor who would gain Caesar’s trust when she helped the ailing Cornelia while being aware of what could happen as she tries to maintain a sense of hope for herself, Alexander, and Malcolm.

Jason Clarke is fantastic as Malcolm as a good man who just wants peace as he would be a reminder to Caesar on the good qualities of humanity as he tries to help defuse the situation between apes and humans. Gary Oldman is superb as Dreyfus as a military leader who is trying to get ready for any conflict as he is driven by grief and fear to fight the apes. Toby Kebbell is brilliant as ape Koba as this scared lab ape who has a huge distrust and hatred for humans as he questions Caesar’s loyalty where he would take action and eventually cause trouble. Finally, there’s Andy Serkis in a phenomenal performance as Caesar where Serkis brings that physicality to his performance as well a sense of weight as an ape who had seen it all but is aware that apes nor man are better than one another as he tries to come to terms with what he might lose and the future that his family would face.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a remarkable film from Matt Reeves. Armed with a great cast that includes Andy Serkis leading a group of actors in playing apes through performance-capture technology. The film is definitely a sequel that isn’t just superior than its predecessor but also offers so much more than what most summer blockbuster films usually bring. Even as it has strong themes on the idea of family as well as the concept of conflict. In the end, Dawn of the Planet Apes is a sensational film from Matt Reeves.

Related: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - War for the Planet of the Apes

© thevoid99 2014


Dell said...

Just watched this last night (posting my review tomorrow) and I agree that it is amazing. The work turned in by Andy Serkis is nothing short of phenominal. It explores lots of interesting themes, too. Excellent review.

ruth said...

Sensational is right Steven! Glad you enjoyed this film as much as I did. "While it’s a film with a simple premise, there is so much more as it plays to the theme of family ..." Indeed there is! I'm glad they made the story so Caesar-centric and Serkis did a terrific job here.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell Ottley-Serkis should get some special award for his work because he kicked ass. Plus, it's one of those films that entertains but also manages to have something to say.

@ruth-It's a film that I'm glad is doing well and manages to be so much more. I hope they do a next one and make it just as good.