It’s been a while since my last update on my blog. Owe that to the start of my new job. I thought it needed my undivided attention. Now I realize, how could I have even thought my job was deserving of more attention than my passion for movies. Much like Caesar trusts humans, I trust movies.
In an awesome summer filled with gems like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train your Dragon 2 and many more, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stands tallest. It is the perfect film and possibly the best this year so far. The film is dark and soaked in doom. You’d be hard pressed to find more than 3-4 cheerful moments. If you thought the Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fresh take on the popular and mistreated (by Tim Burton) franchise, Dawn takes it a step further in a completely new direction that has a very ominous feel for the characters ringing in the air. The tension is palpable.
If there was one complain from the first movie, it was that the human characters were not well developed for us to care. We cared only about Caesar. That hasn’t been rectified in this installment too. But one can forgive that misstep considering the final payoff is worth it. One should have watched the first film to appreciate this one on a whole other level, but its not mandatory. The film takes it slow with the first 15 minutes establishing the colony of the apes and their society norms. This is effective as once we are familiar with the kingdom Caesar has built for the apes in the jungle, the scene shifts to the humans and their state of affairs which could not be more opposite. There is an underlying Shakespearean theme to the proceeding (Hardly surprising, considering the lead character is named Caesar). This is arguably the best Planet of the Apes movie. The film is aimed at adults.
The Apes have been living happily for about 10 years in the jungle, hunting elks and breeding, under the leadership of Caesar (Andy Serkis) with no humans being sighted for the last 2 years. The virus that caused the apes’ outbreak has led to the near extinction of the human race. Only a few thousands remain alive in the nearest city of San Francisco that looks like a war-torn
demolished ruin straight out of ‘I am Legend’ or ’28 Days Later’. The humans need power to get civilization back on track that can only be done by fixing the dam that is in the jungle filled with apes. Caesar trusts the humans and allows Malcolm(Jason Clarke) and his team to use the ape’s territory to repair the dam, but on the condition of prevailing peace. Not all the apes are on board for this, especially Koba, a trigger happy ape, the second ape in command who distrusts humans due to some past cruel experiences with them. War is inevitable, though who is at fault is debatable as is the case in real wars too.
The film has a deep underlying message of how weak technology has made humans which is thrown into sharp relief when we see the chaos the humans live in at the lack of it and the civilized lives of the apes without technology. Another point that the film tries to make is how important leadership is at times of crisis. Whenever Caesar is present among the apes, there is sense of control. When he isn’t, the ominous feel returns. Similarly the leader of the humans, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), can’t get his people to even listen to him while he talks. The term “Live and let live” is only a myth.
There is an interesting and touching sub plot of Caesar’s difficulty bonding with his elder son, Blue Eyes. This track reminds one of The Lion King. There is plenty of action for those who don’t care for mundane things like plot or screenplay, but that is something that is part of a larger picture. The 2nd half has a good 45 minutes war sequence filled with adrenaline pumping ape on human, human on ape, ape on ape and human on human fights. We’re all animals in the end after all. The way the apes communicate with each other is also well established.
Now let’s come straight to the point. It’s been said before by many and I’ll say it again, Andy Serkis deserves some kind of Oscar. The man who gave us memorable characters like Gollum and King Kong is on top of his game with his portrayal of Caesar. The ape looks so real even in the very close up shots. The expressions, mannerisms and aura cast by Caesar are overwhelming to say the least. Andy is clearly the most important component of the modern cinema technique, the motion capture technology. Part of the credit needs to be given to the CGI effects team and director, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). The special effects are top notch and never do we feel that the apes are computer generated. Matt Reeves’s style of direction reminds one of the style mastered by zombie-movie-maker, George A. Romero and director, Neil Marshall (Doomsday). Needless to say, the 3D isn’t good especially since most of the scenes take place in the dark.
The human actors also perform well enough, though they are overshadowed by the apes. People going to this film hoping to laugh and have fun munching on popcorn, will be surprised by the seriousness of the film. For example, I expected some people in the theater to laugh out loud or make stupid ape sounds at several points in the film when all we hear for several minutes are apes making monkey sounds communicating with each other. But I was pleasantly surprised that no one did. The film forces even the most detached viewer to respect the proceedings on screen. That there is definite proof that we have a masterpiece on our hands. Bow down to Caesar and don’t miss the best of 2014 so far on the big screen.