Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014 Matt Reeves – Partial-review

I went to see this on the afternoon of the World Cup Final and left with about 20-25 minutes to go in the film.. by the looks of things I left just before a ‘peaceful resolution’ between the Apes and surviving Humans was torpedoed. Up until that point the film made quite a good play at staying intelligent in the face of it’s far-fetched premise.

Leading on from the first movie in the rebooted franchise where Caesar, the leader of the Apes was the result of a medical experiment which lead him to evolve an intelligence far in advance of his simian contemporaries. That film ended with him leading a group of similarly-enhanced apes of various sorts in a revolt which saw them escape to the forests around San Francisco.

If the scenes at the end of that movie were a little hard to believe as the Apes beat back SWAT teams with helicopters to make their escape – the prologue of this film posits the idea that a simian-flu virus that emerged soon after that episode killed of nearly everyone on the planet.. ok, that could do it.

So a decade on from then the Apes are living peacefully in the forest and have built a kind of society which is a hybrid of Ape and traits they have acquired from their interactions with humans..

This is all well and good and most of the early stuff is very Ape-centric, scenes of them working together to hunt Elk in the forest and showing us that they have started to use writing and speech.. ok, ok… hmmm – but this wouldn’t be much of a movie without people in it so, it turns out (spoilers?) that not everyone died and pretty soon some Apes meet a human in the forest – he, of course shoots one of them (this wouldn’t be hollywood without someone sticking a gun in someone’s face right?) and we have a movie.

Caesar turns up with a posse, decides not to tear them all limb-from-limb on-sight, instead telling them to “GO!!!!” and then we get the humans side of the story.. they’re all barely surviving and a dam needs repair up somewhere in the forest (where the Apes are) and they need to fix it to get power and with that the hope of rebuilding society and finding out who else is left in the world..

Of course this doesn’t run smooth – on the Ape and Human sides there are the usual trigger-happy assholes stirring-up trouble and helping the plot tick-along..

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The script though is better than you would think and much of it tackles the moral conundrums that arise from the ideas of peaceful coexistence, survival and revenge with an intelligence that is quite surprising for this kind of movie.

I read the synopsis on the part of the film I didn’t see and yeah, it was pretty much what I expected – franchise-building stuff, setting-up the following films of which I’m sure there will be literally no end.

In that respect it reminded me of Captain America: Winter Soldier – if it didn’t need to fill it’s role as part of a franchise it could’ve been a pretty good standalone movie but the “Studios” will never stop at simply making a good film when they can make a huge-franchise out of it.

Still – I am reviewing a movie I only watched about 80% of so, make of that what you will..

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The ‘effects’ are pretty good – especially the faces and expressions of the Apes. The movement is not so good, especially when they start doing the usual Hollywood-style climatic leaping and things you’ve never seen Apes do..

Also I thought the music was a huge wasted opportunity – especially the opening scenes of the ‘Ape-society’ with it’s accompanying strings – thought that was very hokey and later an eerie, ‘walk in the forest’ piece sounded especially phoned-in.

With all of the scope that a new, emerging intelligence on Earth provides I thought the music could’ve been much more challenging – it didn’t have to go down the usual strings = noble and civilized society route… etc

There are some opening scenes where the musical cues are a direct homage to the Ape scenes in 2001 (think, dissonant choral drones) which I thought were much better – and on the whole the musical ‘cues’ were much more effective than the actual ‘music’

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