Film #287: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3 out of 5 stars
Let me say at the outset, I’m in the bag for these films. I loved the 1968 Franklin J Schaffner / Charlton Heston film and I remember all of the sequels fondly. When the reboot came along, I was skeptical, but ended up enjoying it greatly. I thought they handled the premise with respect and honored all that had gone before. So, going into the DAWN, I was ready to enjoy the goings-on. As it turns out, I got a lot of what I wanted, but I also got a lot that I didn’t. Directed by Matt Reeves (LET ME IN, FELICITY), this follow-up to the successful RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES arrives furthering the story in some ways, but also devolving into a very ‘paint by numbers’ ending. Starring Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis, and Jason Clarke, the acting is all suitably earnest and fine. Oldman shouts his way through his role as human leader while Russell and Clarke stand around looked wide-eyed. The real star of this film (and the others) is Serkis, who is, in a word, amazing. The roll-out of the film is handled well. It informs the audience and brings them up to speed quickly and efficiently. Film score by Michael Giacchino (INCREDIBLES 2, JURASSIC WORLD, LOST) is also fine. The film is a solid dystopian tale and everything is handled well. Exposition is given efficiently and the ape’s use of sign language is novel and inventive. Yes, there are many plot inconsistencies (what did the human’s eat and where did they get it? They say that, with electrical power, they could contact others, but they have diesel generators and don’t think to try to radio out?), but the film’s momentum carries the tale forward. Here’s where we hit the skid. The second act drags miserably, becoming exceedingly ‘fill in the blanks’ (Turn-coat friend? Check! Bond between human leads and apes solidified? Check! Hero incapacitated at a crucial time? Check!). You can almost set your watch by it. So, by the start of the third act (with its chimp-friendly machine guns and unending magazines), you kind of just don’t care anymore. Watching the film, I had a weird realization… and follow me on this one. In a weird way, one of the film’s central themes (Caesar’s journey) reminded me a lot of what happened to Don Corleone in THE GODFATHER: the betrayal, the attempted murder, the recovery. Watch the film and tell me I’m wrong. In the end though, DAWN is a well-constructed, but misguided effort. With the film’s nicely-handled introduction, we’re primed for a sweeping tale. Instead, the film sputters into political intrigue, and then, it takes a hard turn for the ‘action ending’ rather than one that might resonate more. Well worth seeing, but go in knowing it runs lean on gas towards the end.