Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Film

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

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Set 10 years following the previous installment of the updated POTA franchise, society has collapsed under sweeping loss of human life due to the effects of the virus which was supposed to be the cure for Alzheimer’s disease and enhanced the intelligence of the apes on whom the drugs were tested.  The genetically enhanced Apes have built their own village and the building blocks of their society, under the guidance of their leader, Caesar.  A group of Humans, lead by Malcolm, who are trying to restart a dam to produce hydroelectric power, stumble across the Apes.   A fragile truce is negotiated.  However fear and prejudice on  both the Human and Ape sides soon shatter that peace and spark a war to determine who will be the dominant species on Earth.

This film, and its predecessor, can be set apart from the rest of the franchise because it is a true re-imagining of the story.  Where the source material is filled with heavily political overtones of totalitarianism, classism and racism which carries throughout the original franchise; the remakes have been updated with modern socio-political issues.   Largely, our fear of biologically engineered warfare (i.e. fear of vaccinations, overuse of antibiotics and the general attitude of “better living through chemistry”), combined with the hot seat topics of animal testing, evolution, and humanity’s dependence on electricity (read: technology).  But enough about the why it’s is good topically.

The story is well written and mostly well thought out.   My only real complaint is that the Humans are fixated on the fact that they need to start the hydro electric plant located near the Ape settlement.   It’s their “only hope” to restore the electricity on which they depend to rebuild society.  WTF, you mean to tell me that in the entire greater San Francisco area, no one has access to nor has even heard of Solar Power?  I realize the writers needed to create a reason for the two groups to interact, and it’s not a bad reason, but the gaping plot hole of “we need electricity to run our iPads but don’t have the technology for Solar power” should have at least been addressed in passing.  The CGI was very good and needed to be as this story was very visual due to the nature of the characters.  This relied on the skill of the motion capture actors (which was abundant and evident) in each role to give life to the computer graphics.

The characters develop well and logically, a few continuing to develop from the previous film.  Andy Serkis, resuming his motion-capture role as Caesar, once again shows the audience that a hero doesn’t need to have a lot of witty dialogue to carry a film and have a strong lead presence.  Jason Clarke, as Malcolm, the human counterpart to Caesar, offers an emotional role, set between his loyalty to the survival of his loved ones and humanity in general, and his belief that human and ape can live in peace, yet watching that peace tore apart by fear and intolerance.   Toby Kebbell gives an intense performance as Koba, the ape so scarred, both physically and mentally, from years of experimentation.

I enjoyed that the soundtrack reflected the score from the original series as well as the balance of action and intrigue.

I gave the film 4 1/2 banana milk shakes.

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