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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review: Good Story Telling is Key.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rating:
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; along with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Skyfall, the BBC Sherlock, a number of Stan Lee comics adapted to the big screen this century, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Star Trek 2009, and Star Trek Into Darkness are just a few examples that show how simple good story tell is the key ingredient to breathe new life into decades old franchises. Too often studios use brand names for cash grabs and put no effort into the screen adaptations. They either make the films stilly and campy (in a bad way) or they slap a paint by numbers plot in a 90 minute snooze or migraine inducing waste of time. Good stories and characters are essential. People who do the lighting, sound, and editing (among other things) are the unsung heroes that make the difference between a good film and a bad film.
Andy Serkis and the rest of the primate performers do a fantastic job with motion capture performances (whoever developed the technology for that is a genius and another unsung hero). The reason Andy Serkis is so well known for his motion capture performances is that he can convey more in a simple facial expression than most people convey in a detail saturated monologue. He make Cesar into a completely three dimensional character, particularly in the scenes with little to no dialogue. Relative newcomer Nick Thurston deserves to be singled out for praise as Cesar’s son. He had to show a broad range of emotions and rose to the occasion every time.
There are a few things to nit-pick. Some of the action sequences felt a little off because the CGI had the Apes moving too fast and felt as though they dropped frames in the final cut. It was obvious they couldn’t use the actors for dangerous stunts. The Human characters were good, but could have used a little expansion. There are moments where they are given back stories about the people they lost, but the screen time given to the people and their stories wasn’t optimized as much as it could have been so those moments felt like they interrupted the flow of the film rather than given depth to the characters and the story. Fortunately, the characters were likeable rather than annoying so they didn’t detract the audience enjoying the film. There were also things that lead to tensions between the humans and the apes that could have been strong.
The film was effective at creating suspense. There are plenty of shocking, but not gratuitously shocking moments. There are also good comic relief moments that don’t rely on cheap broad comedy, give the audience credit for being able to understand the joke. Both humans and Apes act in ways that raise questions and encourage the audience to actively think about the themes embedded in the story. This writer probably would not watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes over and over again, but does recommend catching it in the theater. It’s certainly the best mainstream film to come out in weeks.

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