Sunday, 20 July 2014

Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

World of Blackout Film Review

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (3D) Poster

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (3D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 130 mins / Dir. Matt Reeves
WoB Rating: 5/7

I'm going to try my best to convey my reservations about Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, whilst still recommending that you go and watch it. You'll understand my reticence shortly. The thing is, I was ready to see this at the weekend. Cineworld had their Secret Screening set up for the Tuesday beforehand, and in all honesty even I wouldn't have put money on a national advance screening being of a film that was due to open less than 48 hours later. Well played, World of Cine, well played…

+ + + + +

So, as much as I enjoyed DotPotA (and I did enjoy it), I have to say that its hamstrung by some of its most central aspects. You might not think that 130 minutes of watching two societies simultaneously fall victim to prejudice, in-fighing, scapegoating and general xenophobia is going to be a fun ride for a Summer Blockbuster Movie™. And you'd be right; it's not. It makes for an absolutely compelling watch, but it's not what could be described as fun. The few touching moments of bonding and affection from the film's predecessor are nowhere to be found, since even the quieter scenes between Caesar and his simian family are marred with the furrowed brow of impending war.

Matters aren't helped any by some pretty awful casting for the human characters. Jason Clarke pulls the right faces at the right times, but really isn't a strong enough actor to lead a film like this, whereas Kerry Russell has never been great (imho, obvs) and to make matters worse is saddled with the role of The Woman One Who Is Also Handily A Nurse™. Last but by no means least is Gary Oldman, who seems to have landed Distinguished Actor Hired For Smaller Part To Bring A Bit Of Gravitas To The Whole Thing™, presumably because Morgan Freeman wasn't available at the time.

Believe me when I say that every human in the film is out-acted by CGI apes, and that's not a term I use flippantly; the collaboration between the mo-cap actors and the digital artists who've brought their performances to life is nothing short of astounding, and fully deserving of awards I suspect they'll go on to win. To the point where I wish there had been fewer humans in the film, frankly. Andy Serkis is, as you can probably imagine, worth the price of admission alone. Although you could quite easily knock a couple of quid off that price by seeing the 2D version. The stereoscopy is there, but even the frames where things are thrown directly at the camera are underwhelming. Removing the need for 3D glasses may well be the only way to brighten up this film.

As far as allegory and subtext goes, DotPotA is hardly delicate, but from a story point-of-view it's exactly what's needed. If you enjoyed Rise Of… you'll get a lot out of this, and if you didn't then you're not likely to be seeing it anyway, right?

As a regular movie, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is clunky and contrived, its reliance on spelled-out metaphor only relieved by its outstanding effects work. As a Planet Of The Apes movie, however, the film is a thing of quite savage beauty, fitting seamlessly into the narrative gap and detailing all the things we want to see, how we want to see them. As a very casual fan of the franchise, both of these facets were at the forefront of my mind throughout the run-time; thankfully the second one more than makes up for the first.

And I do recommend that you see it.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Pretty much.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
It was more of a sustained wince, but in a good way.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
With in the Planet Of The Apes spectrum, it certainly does.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Cinema if you like 'em big and loud, but don't bother with the 3D.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I won't.

Will I watch it again?
As much as I enjoyed it, probably not for some time.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Pretty certain there is, yes; when one of the humans is trying to crawl under a car to safety and is dragged away before he can make it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Shouldn't 'Dawn Of…' been the title of the previous movie and 'Rise Of…' been assigned to this one? Wouldn't that make more sense, chronologically and narratively?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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