Monday, February 16, 2015

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) - 8 stars out of 10

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) - 8 stars out of 10

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a quality sequel in this rebooted series.  While the storyline and human actors fall far short of its predecessor (how can a few Australian no-names compare to James Franco and John Lithgow?), the film makes up for it with jaw-dropping visual effects.  In fact, this film might actually challenge “Interstellar” for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.  “Dawn” is performance-capture technique perfection, with the vividly real animal movements of the actors pairing perfectly with the detailed computer animation.  It is literally unbelievable - you would swear that these were real apes and, in a less competitive year, I truly believe that Andy Serkis would have been nominated for best actor.  The plot was a bit weak but serves as a good bridge between the ape escape at the end of “Rise” and the inevitable battle of the species (which we will hopefully see in the next film).  One of the biggest perspective-changing aspects of the film is the establishment that neither species are the good guys or bad guys.  By basing the conflict off of a misunderstanding, it is clear to see that they could coexist but have no choice in trying to eliminate the other.  The film sets a great tone with its opening.  I don’t typically buy into the “global news report opening sequence,” but this one is a perfect recap of the previous story and puts the global spreading of the ALZ-113 virus into perspective.  In spite of the special effects and grand-scheme-concepts that this film adds to the series, the human acting is a mess.  Gary Oldman was completely underutilized.  He is the biggest name in this film and the writers even acknowledged that by giving him an incredible emotional moment, but then his character basically disappeared and didn’t get another “moment.”  The same goes for Keri Russell, who isn’t given a chance to use her acting chops, and the rest of the cast who just kind of exist to create a reasonable story.  I can't get over the fact that a ton of CGI apes have more personality than the live humans on-screen, but I mean that as a compliment to the apes more than an insult to the humans.  It feels like some of the script was hastily thrown together with repetitive scenes and a lack of intelligent dialogue.  When half of your movie is without dialogue due to ape interaction, you would think that the other half of the movie would be well-written.  Still, the incredible animation and apocalyptic San Francisco make those flaws hardly noticeable.  “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” needs the rest of the series to make it a great movie, but its special effects would make it worth watching even without a plot.

[Pictured: Could it look any more realistic?]

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