Saturday, 12 July 2014

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

After the 2011 sci-fi action drama hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is a reboot of the Planet of the Apes series, the story continues further in the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This film not only meet expectations, but exceeds them on many levels. It is not just an epic story about conflict between humans and apes, but it's also a gripping and emotional story that strongly reflects on our society and civilization as a whole.

The first act of the film is simply remarkable. 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes where Caesar freed the evolved apes, we get to see how the apes form a colony. They established a society, much like us, but living in peace and harmony. They went on hunting together and communicate with each other mostly with their hands and sounds (sign language). On the other hand, humans are almost completely wiped out by the ALZ-113 virus spread (Simian flu) and become a minority. But, everything starts to change, conflicts start to arise when the humans accidentally found the apes during a small expedition to start up an old hydroelectric dam to re-power the city with lights.

The film shows how the two different cultures (man and ape) gradually a series of small acts of violence, betrayal of trust or personal acts of aggression can incite a catastrophic war in which neither side truly "wins". Rather than spoonfeeding the audience with heavy expositions, the film lets the characters draw you into the story, slowly in each moment until you begin to see the real world parallels that exist throughout the history of mankind.

The CGI with motion capture in this film is superb and top-notch. The motion capture actors (Andy Serkis as Caesar, Toby Kebbell as Koba, Karin Konoval as Maurice, Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes, Doc Shaw as Ash, Terry Notary as Rocket) provide fantastic performances and managed to imbue the apes with various emotions: anger, fear, happiness, regret, heartbreak, sadness, frustration, hatred, love, compassion, sorrow, etc. All of the apes look real and lifelike to the point that you think of them as characters with distinctive personalities. These apes live, breathe, think and feel, just like us.

Each main character in the film has strong, understandable reasoning for what they're doing. They all try to protect their own people, in their own way. Caesar, the wise ape leader who desires peace for his people, constantly tries to show strength in his leadership in order to achieve it. On the other hand, Malcolm, the human lead, tries to understand the apes, work out their differences without discrimination, in hopes that peace can be maintained. However, Koba, the film's antagonist, is different compared with the rest of the apes...he has seen the worst side of humanity (unlike Caesar, who has seen the good side of humanity). We can also see that Dreyfus, the human leader/antagonist (his shout "They're animals!") and many of his peers show their discrimination and contempt for the apes due to their own personal reasons.

The film tries to show different character perspectives from both sides...their own fears. The truth is no matter how hard both sides try to justify it, they are both wrong. They believe what they're doing is ultimately right...for the safety of their own people. The film shows how fear and hatred can lead anyone do the wrong things. Despite their best intentions and reasoning, these people and apes are easily corrupted when they have a gun placed in their hands (the power to control and take lives)...that is how dictatorships are born, which strongly echoes our actual history. It's a cynical depiction of human nature through apes. It eerily shows the horrors of our society that exist even today.

Throughout the film, Caesar constantly shows the best of humanity, but sadly his family of apes end up with the worst parts of human nature. By the end of the film, you can feel Caesar's regret, sadness and heartbreak...which is both moving and thought-provoking at the same time. In short, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is truly a cinematic masterpiece. It's a sequel that comes with a strong socio-political message. This film truly reminds us why we go to the movies. It's certainly one of the best films of the year! Two thumbs-up! Very highly recommended.

Rating: 9.5/10

Next Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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