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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Review...
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Review...
It is rare that a movie from a well established, iconic franchise be far superior to its predecessors, but so it is with the new Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes movie. I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is one of the movies to beat box-office wise during this summer-block-buster season... but what makes this Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes so unique is that it is also Oscar worthy, notwithstanding its mid-July opening. You know a movie that takes place in an era where Humans and Apes are living in is fraught with challenges when one hears an orator saying that if the pandemic did not kill you that the ensuing riots would. Permit me to digress momentarily to say that I hope that the Oscar folks do not forget Andy Serkis' performance, which I will address in the latter part of this review.
For those who have not seen the first movie that started the reboot of the classic Planet Of The Apes, which was initiated with the late Charleston Heston, this is a continuation with Caesar, the ape, that lived mostly with Humans during his formidable years, and, who, eventually, 'evolved' to speak, is now living in his natural habitat and he is literally king of his species. However, like any leader governing a Kingdom, heavy lies the crown because his troubles are legion... be it from intrepid enemies (humans) with long memories, subtle threats from friends in the ranks, or rebellion from one's own children.
We see Caesar the father having problem with his son, who, like a typical Human teenage boy, has a microwave way of looking at Simian life, whereby grownups should not be listened to and having everything done at breakneck speed. Caesar is also reminiscing about his childhood and wondering if any Human survived the Simian pandemic, ironically that came about because of cruel experimentation on apes in secret laboratories in San Francisco - yes, I said San Francisco, the epicenter of modern day 'Progressive' thought.
Among the warrior class in Caesar's Simian kingdom is Koba and the latter is rightfully distrustful of Humans in light of the brutal torture - with all its cruel manifestations, mental and otherwise - he suffered at the Humans' hands. So it is only natural and academic that when Humans actually walked into the apes' camps accidentally, the old malignant wounds are opened and the mistrust between both species are front and center.
It turns out that the only source of power available is hydro-electric power and it is located in the heart of the Apes' kingdom. Caesar is at first reluctant to give the humans access to the power plant - but does so anyway, choosing to remember the good in Humans. This unearned trust is shattered because there are Humans too who blamed the Apes for the Simian pandemic that wiped out most of the Human species and having the world regressed to the state of the horse and buggy era. On the other side of the coin is Gary Oldman, who is the leader of the surviving Humans, and it is he who sent those Humans who ended up in the Apes' domain, to seek a watery power source.
The veteran reliable Oldman is compelling as a leader who have lost much and it shows in a moving scene when the power is turned back on, which then enabled a memento to come to life... reminding Oldman's character of said gut-wrenching loss. Perhaps, that is why Oldman is so dogged in his pursuit to get the world back to some semblance of what it used to be.
The trouble brews and the embers of war turn into a run-away-fire because while Caesar is offering an olive branch to the Humans, his war general, Koba, is on a reconnaissance mission where he discovered that the Humans have a lethal arsenal of guns that could wipe out the Ape population. Koba knows his former torturers so well that when he is caught spying, he pretends to be a harmless ape one may see in a zoo... performing the attendant demeaning tricks like rolling over and sticking out its tongue....
It is not the only trick that Koba learned from Humans - but he also learned political intrigue too and though he has much respect for his leader, Caesar, it is ingenious the scheme Koba uses to get both sides to resume their war. It is uncanny to see how much alike Humans and Apes are and how a miscalculation or misunderstanding can bring the world to the brink of annihilation akin to real life. These are some of the aspects in Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes that make the script so damn, deliciously good and coupled with the fact that actors like Andy Serkis are involved to interpret and quicken the words.
Speaking of Andy Serkis - what is it about this man who could bring these one of a kind characters to life and doing so without having a point of reference. Look at the character Mr. Serkis concocted for Gollum in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and now his magnificent take as the Simian Leader, Caesar: watch Caesar's countenance that bespeaks compassion as he sees his new born son enters the world or the sheer terror he displays to secure the crown as Alpha Simian male... morphing into a killing machine and coming back from the brink to recall that Apes do not kill other Apes, albeit while the challenger to Caesar's crown is bleeding profusely or watch his face when he realizes that war between Humans and Apes is here to stay and he has to convey these sentiments to a Human character who is a genuine friend and akin to a Switzerland (peaceful/neutral player) in the conflict between the two species....
Mad props to the director and script writers who found subtle ways to give credence to those who are advocates of Evolution and the Human/Ape condition: Caesar telling his chief warrior that he is no Ape - but Human. Watch the scene where distrust reigns, yet a baby ape offers what is tantamount to the peace pipe - just like children of different races interacting, ignorant of the cancer of racism... well, until we infect them. Another pivotal scene depicts the Apes travelling via horses to the Human territory and it is both chilling and majestic to watch and hear Caesar offer the terms of living side by side. In addition, in further dissecting the script, we see how absolute power corrupts, even among the Apes and again giving credence to those who believe in Evolution to show the similarities between the species. I love it too when the lights were turned on and we heard the late Levon Helm of The Band singing an apt song to remind the people about some of the amenities/luxuries like music, which were lost because of the pandemic.
Do I have any fault with the script - well, only a little where it was fortuitous that during the battles between the species that Caesar's son just happened to be at an area to facilitate and solidify a friendship. And how come I did not see the Apes reloading the weapons that they were firing or the fact that the 'opposing thumb' issue was not addressed. I also wished that the female Apes were given a bigger role and allowing us to hear their take on the conflict between Humans and Apes - someone like the Keri Russell's character. Once again, I entreat the Academy not to forget Mr. Serkis' tour-de-force performance during Oscar time and I hope this movie is re-released during that season, so as to drag the Academy voters memories.