Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Planet Apes PHOTO

Guns don’t kill people, apes do.

This is the second time the Planet of the Apes has been rebooted. The one in 2011 was pretty good until it got to some of the goofy fighting scenes at the end. What was enjoyable was how the intelligent ape (played brilliantly by Andy Serkis) dealt with his humans and animal instincts. The problem with this film is the humans. The characters aren’t very memorable. Gary Oldman is one of the most interesting actors working today, and he does nothing but scream. Keri Russel’s character is that sadly underwritten female that really cares, but doesn’t get to do much other then look sad.  It’s those damn dirty apes that have the good roles! Toby Kebbell is Koba, the angry back-stabbing ape who wants to be the alpha male. He fears Ceasar is a bit to trusting of humans. Nick Thurston does a great job playing Caesar’s son. He conveys impatience, rebelliousness, and also love. That’s amazing considering he does that all in an ape suit (well, a CGI suit).

This story takes place 10 years after the last story, in a post-apocalyptic world. A virus has killed millions of humans, and the ones that are alive are in need of electricity. This has a crew, led by Jason Clarke, coming into the apes camp and shooting one. They sort out that sticky mess after being told to stay out of the jungle. Since we’ve been introduced to the few bad humans and bad apes, we know this truce won’t last long.

There is a subtle context about war, gun control, racism, and things like that. Yet it never really comes across as preachy.

Many times during the two hour movie, I found myself a bit bored. And as stunning as the visual effects were, the 3D seemed unnecessary. The script was also weak.

There’s one scene where power is restored at a gas station and somebody puts a CD in. The great song “The Weight” by The Band comes on. Nothing wrong with that, except that it was used so powerfully in The Big Chill and Easy Rider. I also remember it in Hope Floats, Igby Goes Down, and there are a few other films I can’t recall right now. So why use it? Wouldn’t it have been a nice bit of humor to have a song by The Monkees? Or what about “Apeman” by The Kinks?

When the inevitable fight scenes take place, it goes on for nearly an hour. What’s odd about it is the fact that you really don’t have a rooting interest in who wins. Both sides have their good and bad characters, which takes a lot of the fun out of it. Are we really supposed to cheer (like the guy next to me did), when a goofy scene has an ape storm in on a horse, with machine guns in each hand firing? It’s the type of over-the-top crap that ruined Scarface. Now, I loved seeing Clint Eastwood have a gun in each hand in Unforgiven. I laughed when Slim Pickens had a gun in each hand while riding a bomb out of plane in Dr. Strangelove. Yet in this movie, it was dumb. The thought that kept racing around in my mind was – it’s a decade later with most on Earth dead, yet nobody ever runs out of bullets or booze.

The whole film had a despairing tone and wasn’t as fun as it should’ve been. At the very end you realize nothing was really accomplished. Well, except for the fact that a sequel will be coming.

It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5 for the great visuals, and two hours in an air conditioned theatre.


  • August

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