November 10, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves, 2014
Dawn picks up some time after the last film ended. A pandemic has wiped out the majority of the human population, the remaining survivors left to start over again. Without power and still heartbroken from losing close family and friends, a group of survivors colonize in the ruins of San Fransisco. When they venture into the forest in an attempt to restore power from a broken hydro-plant, they encounter the apes they blame for the collapse of civilization.

This Matt Reeves (Let me in, Cloverfield) directed sequel to the first and also good Apes film (directed by Rupert Wyatt), is rooted in some compelling story threads between both ape and man. You have leader ape Caesar, now a father and husband. Many years have passed since his days living with the Rodman family, although some of the memories still linger. They have started their own civilization in the Northern California forest. They have assumed all humans have died off, as they have seen no signs of them. But they are surprised to encounter group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), a compassionate man who they ultimately form an alliance with. Malcolm is accompanied by his young son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell). Colony leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) pushes them to get the power plant up and running in three days before he launches a military strike against the apes.

The tension between the apes and humans is glaring. The humans blame the apes for the world's destruction. The apes consider the humans to be cruel and not trust-worthy, after years of keeping them captive. The film explores family dynamics, diplomacy, perseverance, and the realization that the genetic divide may not be so wide between the two when it comes to behavior (which we all know isn't so vast, but for some reason nobody in the film realizes). Perhaps the greatest feat of this picture is the fact that you become invested in the CGI creations, as invested as their human counterparts. There is some acceptable confusion in terms of rooting for a particular protagonist, but you are able to get behind multiple figures for multiple reasons. Films like this, films like the Life of Pi show a promising future for film. The CGI builds that we are able to create now are so lifelike. They are not only just resolute in image quality, they can be complicated characters. As the technology improves it will become cheaper to produce. It will be interesting in the coming years so see what other filmmakers can do on smaller budgets with computer generated characters. Until then, some of these big budget movies are not bad when they are put into the right hands.

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