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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Apes with guns, riding horses!

 One last chance for peace.
One last chance for peace.
Image from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Markus Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language

Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:

I knew this movie was going to be something special after the first 10 minutes came and went without the appearance of a single human and all I could think about was how so emotionally taken I was with watching Caesar’s ape community interact with one another (mostly through sign language) that I could’ve sat through an entire feature length film with no human interference at all.

Synopsis: Somewhere around 10 years after the results of the previous film (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) caused the supposed mass extinction of all humans, a group of surviving apes and their offspring (lead by Caesar) have built a community on some of the nicer real estate in post-apocalyptic San Francisco. And then humans come and mess everything up.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is full of “WOW” moments. By this I mean, I was so blown away with how the script (full of fabulously crafted Shakespearian themes) came together so wonderfully with a healthy portion of visuals punctuated by CGI textures and visceral direction from Matt Reeves (Let Me In) that I literally uttered the word “WOW”, out loud at least a dozen times throughout my viewing experience.

The Direction: When I think back on the history of primates in film, the difficulty directors tend to have (on a technical level) with portraying such an undeniably intimidating animal such as a gorilla or a chimpanzee in a manner that is even the slightest bit intimidating, has always been baffling to me. For this reason above all, I must heap praise onto Matt Reeves. There were moments when watching “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” when I got the same uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I had the last time I stood in front of the gorilla sanctuary at the zoo and realized that if I were any closer I could be ripped to shreds on a whim. I can guarantee I’ve never had this same experience watching any other cinematic primate.

The Acting: From the trailers alone “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” would seem as though it stars the likes of Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Andy Serkis. But in reality, it stars Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell who play the two prominent lead ape characters, Caesar and Koba respectively; both giving nomination worthy performances. Every other actor portraying a non-ape character is aggressively secondary to the plot and should be considered as part of the supporting cast in a movie that didn’t necessarily need a supporting human cast.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I’m a glass half empty kinda guy; a constant “hater”. Or so they say. So, allow me to get off of this film’s jock for a second and address a few things. If there are flaws in this sequel, they are minute; buuuuuuut…there are a few. The first being the miraculous resurrection sequence of a major character (that’s about all I can say about that, without spoiling anything) which garnered audible groans from a few in the audience I sat with. The second flaw comes near the end by way of a 3 minute, woefully sappy, end of “Rocky 4”, “if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change”-esque back and forth between two characters. That said, there is way too much here to admire (the storytelling, the performances, the action sequences, etc.) to make a big deal out of forgettable “flaws” such as those. So…moving on.

Final Thought: If I sat most teenagers down in front of the 1968 classic, “Planet of the Apes”, it wouldn’t take long for them to openly disregard the fantastic premise, underlying themes of racism and a delightfully dark ending that most big budget films nowadays couldn’t possibly get away with, simply because the look is very dated and the camp factor is very 60’s centric. With 2001’s Tim Burton remake, we saw an instance of millions of dollars thrown into a production, with the end result being a film that is still panned across the board, to this day. But with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (directed by Rupert Wyatt) and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, what we are witnessing is this same (if not similar) premise, based on the ridiculous notion that apes can now speak, but this time it’s done in such a way that not for one moment during either of these films (both of which apes speak, and one of which apes ride horses and shoot firearms) are things perceived as campy or unintentionally silly. That is the reason why these new Planet of the Apes remakes work. It’s not so much the million dollar visual effects or the overall entertainment factor. It’s the fact that a packed theater, filled with people from all walks of life, sat and watched a two hour movie where apes talk, and not one of them snickered.

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus

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