Saturday, July 19, 2014

Popcorn for One _ DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (possible Spoilers)

This may contain some SPOILERS, so let's leave it at that and get on with it, shall we?

Andy Serkis owns this move from the opening scenes.  His portrayal of Caesar dominates the entire film whether he is in the scene or not.  Gary Oldman, as Dreyfus, leader of the the remaining human population of San Francisco is just fine as is Jason Clarke as Malcolm, the engineer who comes to befriend the apes.  However, Serkis' performance, hidden as it may be by the motion capture technique, remains the thing that keeps the audience riveted to the screen.  If you are familiar with his performance as Gollum in any of Peter Jackson's Tolkien films you have only seen the beginnings of what can be done. The first film in the reboot of the franchise, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, showed the advances that had been made since the days of Gollum and this film blows those out of the water.

Close to a decade has passed since the final scenes of the first film. The virus created in the lab from which the apes escaped has wiped out a good portion of the human race.  The governments of the world and the entire infrastructures that made modern society are all but memories at this point.  Caesar and the apes he freed have created their own society in the forests outside the city of San Francisco.  There has been no contact between the species for over two years, each believing the other may have died off.  One day a group of survivors, led by Malcolm comes into the area controlled by the apes to attempt to reactivate a power station to return electricity to the city.  One of the group panics and shoots one of the apes, which brings about a confrontation.  Things look bad for the humans until Caesar intervenes.  Malcolm and Caesar come to an understanding and the humans are allowed to go about their work.

Koba, cruelly abused in medical experiments in the first film, was rescued by Caesar in that film and has become his second in command.  His feelings towards humans is understandably not as benign as his leader and as events unfold, Koba (played brilliantly by Toby Kebbell) decides that his hatred and need for revenge should be the path the apes should follow. Putting his plan into effect the inevitable face off between humans and apes comes about.

The great thing about the film is that it really doesn't follow the path you expect.  The trailer shows you some of this, but there is far more going on and the heroes & villains not as clear cut as you might think. Oldman's character is far more fine tuned than you generally find in this sort of thing.  Only a few of the characters fit the stereotypes you expect, but these are not the main actors.

Given the ending of the film, and I certainly won't spoil it for you, it does seem likely that there will be at least a third film in the current franchise.  Whether it takes place shortly after the events of DAWN or decades later, remains to be seen.  I can only hope that Andy Serkis returns, whether behind the camera or in the motion performance that he has pioneered.

If you didn't see the first film in this series, don't go in expecting the actors in heavy latex from the first franchise and the Tim Burton film from 2001.  Those days are long gone, my friends.  I highly recommend you see the film while it's still on the big screen where you can really enjoy it.

Next up, we're waiting for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY next month.

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