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Movie Review - "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

The Movie Hole

Movie Review - "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

JJ Mortimer

Not a reboot or remake, but a film that is a rather "stand-alone" story and marginally related to its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).  Good performances by humans and apes alike (especially Andy Serkis as "Caesar", who once again proves he's the best in the business of motion-capture acting).  Most impressed by the musical score from Michael Giacchino (Oscar winner for Pixar's Up), which hints at vintage Jerry Goldsmith cues from the 1968 Planet of the Apes.

I know a few people who didn't like this film, which fortunately brought my high expectations down a bit before watching it on the Sunday of its opening weekend.  Going into the movie with a near-identical mind set as I had before seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes really helped my overall enjoyment of what I eventually saw in the theater (on both accounts).  What i saw was a very ape-centric story, revolving around a discord amongst the ranks of power between leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Koba (the tortured ape in the lab from the first film).  When humans appear, looking to restore hydro-electric power to their compound by repairing the damn amidst the ape's habitat, events lead to the eventual tension between not only ape and human, but other apes as well.

Now, I must say that I saw the film in 3D, which was completely unnecessary in adding to my overall enjoyment of the film.  I also have to add that three assholes were talking behind us for the better portion of the first part of the film.  At first it was low, but then at quiet times in the film they would laugh and chat, and start criticizing the film out loud.  They took a surprisingly surprising shock when I turned around and said, "Hey guys, shut up!"  "Oh, oh wow," one of them said, like they didn't anticipate an auditorium of people who paid nearly $20 for a ticket to take offense to their bullshitting.  Fuck those guys.

Anyway, I enjoyed the latter half of the film even more.

The visual effects were mostly good in the film, though I do have a distaste to all-CGI animals being used.  I understand the apes needed to be CGI (as they should be), because people in ape costumes really don't work (Congo is so much fun because of how shitty the ape Amy looked and acted).  But when bears and deer are all computer generated, I just don't feel any real connection any more to scenes like these.  Other than that, when the apes are interacting with the humans, the visual effects were well-warranted and fantastic.

This behind-the-scenes shot also shows how proper performances are motivated by actual people behind the visual effects, not just a tennis ball on a stick and a CGI horse for an actor to react to.

This behind-the-scenes shot also shows how proper performances are motivated by actual people behind the visual effects, not just a tennis ball on a stick and a CGI horse for an actor to react to.

Cinematography from veteran Michael Seresin was good, but the color quality was a bit drab for my liking, and I felt the green of the trees and the forest environment could have benefited from the work of a Caleb Deschanel, who in my eyes has the best use of color of any director of photography working today.  Some of the shots were well done though, especially one involving a major character stepping back into the shadows at the end of the film.  Shots like these tell stories of their own, and has just as much to do with the fine work of the director (Cloverfield's Matt Reeves) as well.

The one aspect of the film I was most impressed with was the John Williams/Jerry Goldsmith-esque musical score composed by Michael Giacchino.  I had no idea he scored the film before going in to watch it, but was immediately drawn in to how great the score resembled the original Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes, while taking on a life of its own.  Even over the likes of Hans Zimmer, Giacchino (who will be co-scoring the new Star Wars films with John Williams) is the only "new generation" composer who has a classical sense and taste when it comes to the importance of movie score compositions.  In the lighter moments of the film, he chooses wisely to pull the music back, but then wait for the opportune moment to draw the audience in by proper use of the piano and strings section.  In the action scenes, he doesn't drown the action with bombastic noise nor does he let the action overtake the music - he knows the proper instruments to utilize and bring attention to importance of the scene, rather than mish-mashing it with today's sickening importance of leveling sounds to the point of being "noise".

This will ALWAYS be more impressive than a keyboard-produced "symphony".

This will ALWAYS be more impressive than a keyboard-produced "symphony".

Overall, the film probably wasn't as good as I had initially hoped it would be, but it also wasn't simply OK as others around me had put it.  I enjoyed its simplistic story tellng, because in my mind it isn't just about the initial story, but the processes of the journey that get us to the conclusion that really matter.  Caesar has turned himself into a true leader, and with the great Andy Serkis, we get another of his performances that actually make us care for a CGI character - a rare case indeed.

Caesar is also very commanding, in a very Robert MItchum-like sense.  For a fair-minded leader, he also doesn't make his name out to be an obvious cliche.

Caesar is also very commanding, in a very Robert MItchum-like sense.  For a fair-minded leader, he also doesn't make his name out to be an obvious cliche.