Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" Thrilling Adventure With Surprises

Directed by: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo Judy Greer, Toby Kebbell

Review by James Colt Harrison

20th Century fox has a big hit on its hands with the latest version in the Planet of the Apes franchise. The new one is called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the tile of which gives a clue as to what transpires now and what may happen in the future episodes. The sequel to this new film is already in the works, with director Matt Reeves also attached. Fox is already counting the piles of cash the film will bring in to summer showings.

We don’t want to rehash the plot because that is ludicrous and you can find out when you see this dazzling 3D color film. Essentially, the gist of the story is that decades ago a terrible virus almost wiped out human existance. The apes were not harmed. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is now the leader of their simian nation and has a family with two sons. Serkis is a master of CG action and stop-motion acting and achieved his well-deserved reputation for acting in the Hobbit films. He can only act with his eyes and mouth, but he does a superb job of conveying impatience, anger, and sorrow with his body language.

Several humans survived the virus in the San Francisco area. Some actual scenes were shot in the city and some were re-created on sound stages. You can tell the difference. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his troupe of Keri Russell, a nurse, and their son Kodi Smit-McPhee are pacifists and want to negotiate with Caesar to prevent war. Gary Oldman plays Dreyfuss, a militant guy who wants to wipe out the apes. He gives Malcolm three days to make a peace pact with Caesar.

The action seems to be almost non-stop from beginning sequences and liberally sprinkled throughout on frequent occasions The Ape Army is magnificent, imposing and frightening. Although the apes may still seem like savages to some, they also take on some human qualities which they would furiously refuse to admit. Is it a battle of good against evil? Yes and no. Who are the evil ones and who doesn’t have a blood-thirsty guilt? And who are the ones who have purity of thought?

Gary Oldman (Dreyfuss) is an unsung actor, even though he has appeared in many huge hits over the years. In fact, Oldman, who was born in London in 1958, is credited with having films that have grossed more than $9 billion world-wide. Some of his better-known films are Oliver Stone’s JFK, the horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as Sirius Black in the phenomenal Harry Potter series, and Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which earned him an Oscar® nomination for Best Actor.

Australia has given us Jason Clarke. After making a name for himself on television in his native country, he began appearing in films such as Rabbit-Proof Fence in 2002. A move to America saw him being cast in films Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), the action film Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Great Gatsby (2013) with Leonardo DiCaprio, and White House Down (2013). His next appearance will be in Terminator: Genesis in 2015.

There will be no spoilers here. The film is sufficiently thrilling to keep you interested from start to finish. The action stops only to build up a reason for the next thrilling sequences. The Production Design by James Chinlund is both modernistic and primitive and has some of the most imaginative structures of recent note. The movie is wonderfully entertaining and far superior to the films that came before it. We hope this signals a new interest at Fox in turning out excellent sequels for this beloved series.

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