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Reel Review | Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

Arnav posted on 25th July

By Arnav Nanduri

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbel, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell

It’s been a pretty solid summer for the summer blockbuster enthusiast. We got the equally insightful and hilarious {and this is rare} Lego Movie, followed by Tom Cruise dying really hard {about 43,428 times} to save the world in the under appreciated Edge Of Tomorrow, my personal favourite so far. We also got shit blowing other shit up in the 165 minute Trans-bore-mers 4, if you're into that. And now we have Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. And I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been a pretty solid summer.

So what's the movie really about? Is it about monkeys riding horses? Hell yes! Is it about Gary Oldman really needing to fix his i-pad? Kinda. But what I think makes this film so great is how it so effectively employs what is essentially a traditional storytelling technique of cause and effect, to examine the nature of tension and conflict between, and within two groups. And though this may seem pretty basic, you’d be surprised by how many movies forget to show basic freaking narrative logic in their story - refer to the abovementioned Transformers movie that falls into a genre many now simply refer to as “Bayhem” {Michael Bay + Mayhem}.

The movie follows 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, which was a straightforward but effective ‘set up’ story: A human-created virus sets off a global pandemic and simultaneously creates a bunch of genetically evolved apes. As usual, the end of the world begins and ends in San Francisco. The sequel, Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes {Im just gonna say DOTPOTA here on} continues this story 10 years later, when the virus and the consequent chaos, shown in a great montage of newsreports, has all but wiped out humankind. It also shows the apes in a unique and remarkably detailed stage of mid-evolution. On the other side of the fence, literally, is a struggling band of human survivors. Both groups are unaware of each other's existence, and the film begins with the establishment of this awareness, followed by the inevitable tension.

This is not just a good versus evil story, and one scene in particular made that really clear for me. Don’t worry, no spoilers. Right in the middle of the movie, Caesar, the prodigal ape leader, is confronted by his second in command Koba, who accuses him of being partial to the humans over the cause of the apes. Caesar, being the fair and rational leader that he is, responds by going apeshit {too easy?} on Koba, beating the living crap out of him. And that’s it right there. This is a movie about the lengths that all beings can go to make what they believe to be the best decision for their community. Almost every scene involves the need to make difficult decisions, and every scene plays on the causality of each preceding decision; this is what really makes this film so engrossing. Sadly however, this level of causality does not extend as effectively when dealing with the humans as it does with the apes, and the human story and characters are significantly underwhelming in comparison.

This film is also a visual treat. The level of detail of the ape world makes it absolutely gorgeous, and the ape actors make excellent use of motion-capture technology. Andy Serkis {also Gollum from Lord of The Rings} as Caesar, has really proven himself as the Meryl Streep of motion capture. In mainstream Hollywood at least, this kind of physically intensive acting is not often talked about {kudos to Leo in Wolf Of Wall Street!}, and Andy Serkis is definitely one of the leaders in getting it noticed. There’s also some absolutely awe inspiring battle scenes of the apes in all out guerrilla warfare (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Watch out for this amazing 360 degree moving shot of Koba playing around with a tank. Director Matt Reeves, who brought us the solid genre blending handheld disaster movie/love story Cloverfield, and Let Me In {a remake of the outstanding Swedish horror/romance/fantasy Let The Right One In}, proves himself as more than ready to give the Apes franchise, as well as the blockbuster genre, something epic to remember.

If the idea of apes taking over and locking up humans in cages is a long running stoner joke, then the centrepiece of this joke is most definitely the idea of apes riding horses. I don’t know why, but the sight of a monkey charging on a horse with a spear in hand cracks me up every time, without fail, and this film has plenty of those moments, some of which are just visually spectacular, apart from their inherent meta-humour. Maybe we’ll see more similar moments in the future - apes communicating via carrier pigeons, apes walking their golden retrievers, apes cultivating silkworms. The possibilities are endless!

Rating: *** ½ {3 and a half out of 4 Stars}

If you liked this, You should definitely check out… 

Do The Right Thing {1989}

Writer and Director:  Spike Lee

Cast: Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, Samuel L Jackson

Is Do The Right Thing science fiction? Nope. Is it about monkeys? Hell no! Is Do The Right Thing really anything like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes? Not really. Am I just trying to use some feeble arbid logic to push you to watch my favourite movies? Probably. What connects these two movies for me, however, is the sense of slowly mounting tension and the causality that drives it. This is a one-day film set, during the hottest day of the year, on a small street in Brooklyn. Remember those long but awesome Tarantino dialogue/monologues in which the conversation seems innocuous enough but there’s an unmistakable time bomb ticking between the lines? Well this movie is pretty much entirely that. It’s also a real masterpiece in terms of both style and substance, with a fantastic colour tone, and intelligent use of odd camera angles, complemented by razor sharp dialogue and some really moving performances. This is easily my favourite film by Spike Lee {Malcom X, Inside Man}, and also one of my all-time favourites. Incidentally, Spike Lee recently made a film called Oldboy, which is a lacklustre remake of an absolutely extraordinary Korean revenge/neo-noir film called… Oldboy, by Chan-Wook Park. Movies lead to movies lead to movies. All of them somehow, leading to Kevin Bacon.