Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ★★★★

    The twenty-first century has been a trying period for the film industry, as Hollywood strives to produce the caliber of pictures that permeated its Golden Age, the 1970s, with considerably less talent and imaginative writing. Consequently, creating an overabundance of reboots intending to bring classic films into context for a new generation of moviegoers. "Planet of the Apes" is arguably one of the most influential science fiction films to ever grace our presence, so the inevitable re-fashioning of this product was never deemed unexpected.

    "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is a 2014 sequel that expands on the re-imagined origin story of this popular franchise. This is a film that satisfies the needs of an average viewer, as well as the intellectual spectator. With a brilliant display of computer generated characters and action sequences, along with an impressive and thought provoking story, "Dawn" is positively one of the best pictures of the year.

    Our story begins a decade after the previous film as the man-made virus, aptly named the Simian Flu, that instilled a remarkable level of intelligence into our primate counterparts becomes the sole initiator of humanity's extinction. Caesar and his band of fellow apes have created a society infused with morality, located just outside of San Francisco in the Muir Woods. They have even fabricated a set of commandments, taught to the younglings by the resident Orangutan, Maurice.

    The complication that resides in this dramatic structure is straightforward; human contact is made. A group of surviving humans, who are genetically immune to the infection, have established a civilization inside the tattered walls of the war torn city. Their aspiration to regain power is frayed, once realized that the hydroelectric dam they need to activate rests in the territory of the apes. This leads to the strenuous task of communication between disparate cultures.

    Caesar, the alpha male and proclaimed leader of the apes, will undergo several difficulties, including alienation from his own kind. (A sentiment also experienced by Julius Caesar, the man in which his name was adopted.) Caesar is a strong characterization, which is highlighted exclusively by the dramatic foil in Koba. This tension between leader and second in command will fuel the conflict, which becomes a symbolization of the struggle between civilization and barbarism.

    "Dawn" excels in providing realistic depictions of the computer generated based characters, whose mannerisms are created by real actors. Although each ape has discernible scars and skin complexions, each also contains distinctive facial qualities of his own right. An insuperable task to furnish individuals, which could have easily been a misfire. There is never a feeling of uncertainty wondering which character is which.

    The human element comes in the form of Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke, and the leader of the surviving members of the human race, Dreyfus, portrayed by the veteran actor Gary Oldman. Malcolm is an intelligent and sensible man, who is the spokesman for peace between the opposing factions. Yet, his numerous attempts to ingrain trust into Caesar prove to be futile, as villainy never seems to sleep. Oldman is a strong casting for a character that is limited in dialogue and screen time. His presence is warranted, however, as Oldman powers through several scenes that are weak in composition, including a rallying speech to evoke hope from the remnants of humanity.
     Additionally, who could forget the symbol that lingers in the background of the apes' camp. The outline of Caesar's window from the first installment has now translated into this second film, with brilliant utilization of context to satisfy the creation. This symbol has been fueled with feelings of comfort and serenity. It comes to represent the contentment of family and home; an innocence lost from Caesar's childhood.

    This is a rare film that provides a moral riddle for its thematic concern. In essence, when a picture delves into the unbounded realm of ideas for its theme, it becomes a highly subjective process for the likes of critics and audiences. There have been convictions of theme such as anti-war and anti-gun. One could even invite the belief that this picture is an idealized illustration of the relationship that forged the early Americas, between the Native Americans and the colonists. My position firmly rests in the thoughts of trust and coexistence. Two characteristics of this modern world that are quite often absent from consideration.

    There is another question that arises from the context of this film. When will computer generated characters receive nominations from the Academy? Caesar's performance is a few scenes shy of this prestigious recognition, nevertheless, giving us cause to ponder. Although this may seem like an illogical notion, it would be naive to dismiss it, considering we live in the age of technology. I strongly believe there will be a day when an actor, created solely by a computer, will win the nod for Best Actor.

    It is quite uncommon for a franchise, that has been re-created, to become something more than just a poor imitation of the original. An occurrence that is far too frequent in today's film industry and that appears to be an endeavor for financial benefit. I would imagine that "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is the finest depiction that this atmosphere can create.


  1. Now I'd like to watch it too. I like movies that give us a different perspective on the intelligence of animals. I've noticed that with fellow humans, where we fail to communicate, for varies reasons, language barriers being one of them, we automatically find the person who we fail to communicate with, less intelligent, whereas that is not the case at all. I can't help but wonder, how much we we don't understand about animals, simply because we don't have the proper tools to communicate with them on the same level that two English speaking people would communicate with each other. Tell me, have you seen Project Nim? If so, have you reviewed it? If so, please send me a link.

    1. Hey Samantha. No I haven't seen Project Nim; however, it does look quite endearing.