Sunday 21 November 2021

Movie Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

A science fiction action thriller, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a festival of simian special effects. The story struggles for relevance in the rumbling rush to the next CGI-generated highlight.

Ten years after a drug intended to treat Alzheimer's disease increased ape intelligence and almost wiped-out humanity, Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a group of apes building a growing society in the forests outside San Francisco. His son Blue Eyes is learning about leadership, while Caesar's main military leader is the aggressive Kobo (Toby Kebbell).

The apes block a small group of humans, including Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his partner Ellie (Keri Russell), from exploring the forest to find and reactivate a hydroelectric dam. They are part of a San Francisco settlement led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), growing increasingly desperate for a power source. Malcolm believes he can reason with the apes and Caesar's instinct is to help. But just as Dreyfus does not believe the apes can be allies, Kobo is also suspicious and starts to agitate for war. 

The sequel to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011) starts off on a rickety foundation with a dumbfoundingly similar title, and the prolonged opening scenes are computer generated National Geographic-type explorations of apes in the forest. It takes a while, but director Matt Reeves eventually finds his footing and settles down to a basic conflict between apes and humans, with peacemakers and warmongers on both sides.

The film is adequate but never threatens to rise anywhere. Despite Andy Serkis' expressive heroics as Caesar, only so much interest can be generated by actors in monkey suits surrounded by digital monkeys hooting and hollering at each other in the forest. And large chunks of the overlong 130 minutes are exactly that.

The hawks on both sides have to get their way for the pixels to be truly unleashed, and the second half is full of bloated computer-generated combat, sometimes effective but often a confusing mess of digital firepower and destruction.

It's a tough slog when most of the human moments are not among the humans. Caesar has a family, allies and enemies, and they must have all watched The Lion King, as the dynamics of treachery and the next generation rising to the challenge play out with full predictability. In contrast Jason Clarke and Keri Russell have the thankless task of interacting with ape suits and green screens to demonstrate basic empathy.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes shows good and bad intentions on both sides, and concludes apes are no better than humans in their capabilities for internecine acts of self-destruction, a thoroughly depressing prospect for all mammals on a small planet.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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