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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebell, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Kodi Smith McPhee | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the re-imagined, reboot of the classic Planet of the Apes franchise was one of the best films of 2011 which led me to question whether the highly anticipated sequel could live up to the expectations. The answer is, unequivocally, yes. Three years later, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is as gripping, effective and well crafted as part one, if not more.

This time around, Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield) replaces Wyatt as director and does a masterful job. Working from a smart, beautifully written script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who penned Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and their new collaborator, Mark Bomback,  Reeves has a wonderful grasp on his material and structures a well paced, intriguing story with social-political overtones.

The story unfolds ten years after the man-made Simian flu (ALZ-113 Virus) has nearly wiped out the Earth's human population. Set in and around San Francisco, survivors led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) have taken refuge at a weapons armory, where they are almost running out of electrical power.

Meanwhile, living in the forest outskirts of the city, a colony of advanced apes including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans, led by the genetically enhanced Caesar, from the first film, (Andy Serkis) have led a peaceful existence.  But that is broken when a group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty) looking for a dam as a means to restore electrical power and connect with the outside world, stumbles upon the apes.

Having bonded and formed a loving relationship with a human (James Franco) in part one, Caesar, who has learned to speak English along with communicating in sign language, agrees to help, against the approval of his second in command, Koba (Toby Kebell) a ferocious, angry ape that harbors deep hatred and distrust for humans from when, as a subject of their lab experiments, he was caged and tortured and has the scars to prove it.  

What starts out as a meaningful way for Caesar to keep a peaceful coexistance actually opens up a can of worms that  leads to an all out war between humans and apes, with factions from both species determined to seek revenge and annihilate the other.

As the plot thickens we learn that there are both good and bad characters on each side as well as loyalties, misunderstandings and betrayals that figure into the scenario.

Co-starring as human characters are Keri Russell (The Americans) as Malcolm's girlfriend who is a nurse and Kodi Smith McPhee (Let Me In) as Malcom's teenage son. Along with Malcolm, they develop a deeper understanding and respect for the intelligent simians that they come to realize share similar qualities with humans regarding feelings such as love, trust, compassion, fear, hate, and the importance of family.

Other ape characters include Judy Greer as Caesar's mate, Cornelia who had just given birth to his new son; Karin Konoval, as Maurice, the wise and gentle orangutang, and Nick Thurston as Caesar's misguided son, Blue Eyes.

Like “Rise”, this compelling, absorbing story draws you in both visually and emotionally with just the right amount of action and fantastic seamless special effects. WETA's outstanding team of CGI wizards have created a totally believable world along with fully realized ape characters that come to life in motion captured performances.

On that note, Andy Serkis, who is hidden beneath thousands of computer generated pixels in a motion captured performance, once again portrays, or better said, inhabits, the heart and soul of the alpha ape, Caesar, conveying his emotions through extraordinary facial expressions, look in his eyes and spot on nuances.  It is a magnificent, moving performance that I must say is equally matched by Toby Kebell's fierce portrayal of the vicious, conniving Koba.

With its great story, fantastic special effects, well developed characters and superb performances, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has everything you want from a movie going experience. Those elements combined makes this one of the best films of the year. I am already going “ape” in anticipation of the next chapter. 

 

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