Without question, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a better film than Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The character work is better. The effects are better. The script is better. Those elements are reason enough to give this film a better review, but if you’re going into this looking to be surprised or to have your mind blown with a creative story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere. How do you critically evaluate a film that is so incredibly predictable that it feels put together by a computer algorithm rather than having any human hands involved? It’s solid. The conflicts are clear. The bad guys are bad. The good guys are good. Betrayals occur like clockwork and nobody dies unless they deserve it. Except for that one expendable character who serves to illustrate just how bad the bad guys are. It’s like somebody actually figured out the formula for making a hit summer film that won’t challenge anyone’s sensibilities but won’t be too insulting to your intelligence. And while it may be a more technically proficient film than most of the original Planet of the Apes films, an honest evaluation of Dawn would, in my humble opinion, rank it below all five of the original series in terms of creativity and innovative storytelling. If there’s a hand that probably undercut the effectiveness of the script, I’m gonna go ahead and lay that blame on Mark Bomback, given that he’s had a hand in Live Free or Die Hard, Total Recall, and The Wolverine, all of which are either almost total failures or collapse into total failure before all is said and done. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has that exact same CGI overload that ripped all of the dramatic tension from action sequences in both Live Free and Total Recall, as well as the horrible finale of The Wolverine. Somehow, films that Bomback works on seem to specialize in creating truly boring action set-pieces. The other writers, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver may actually be said computer program. The film is mostly connect-the-dots filmmaking that brings absolutely nothing new or interesting to the table except for nice set designs and the excellent motion-capture performances of Andy Serkis as Caesar and Toby Kebbell as his rival Koba. Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kirk Acevedo, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Jason Clarke are all cardboard cut-outs rather than real characters — defined by their circumstances and the roles they are obligated to play out to make the black and white moral structure of the film go down the easiest. I’m not sure why they even had names. I’d bet early drafts of the script just labeled them by their generic roles: Bad Guy, Nurse Step-Mom, Douchebag, Troubled Son, Good Guy/Dad. The ape characters are mostly just as cookie-cutter, with Koba as Bad Guy/Rival, Mom (whose name is never spoken in the film, but is apparently named Cornelia and played by Judy Greer), Troubled Son (Blue Eyes, Nick Thurston), Sacrificial Character (Ash, Doc Shaw), and Teacher (Maurice, Karin Konoval). But at least they have the benefit of time and care being paid to their actual performances (except maybe for Judy Greer’s Cornelia, who remains practically unused in the script). None of the female characters, actually, (all two of them) really have much to do besides birth babies, get sick and almost die, and provide some generic medical care. It’s a man’s world, babycakes. Or a male ape’s world, depending on where the inevitable sequel takes us. As far as the actual hands-on directing, Matt Reeves does yeoman’s work here maintaining a balance of his usual intimate work and the large scale set-pieces that this film required. Of his three big films so far, it lacks a bit of the fun of Cloverfield and the emotional core of Let Me In, but there are some really nice bits scattered throughout, particularly when the visuals meet up with the amazing score by Michael Giacchino. They work best together through the virtually wordless opening twenty or thirty minutes in the ape world. The primitive soundscape that moves from subtle and atonal to booming and, quite frankly, frightening was a joy. In fact, if we had simply stayed in the ape world I think this would have been a much more interesting film. Or if the human story had actually had some meat on its bones. By the time we reached the scene of Koba on horseback riding through a wall of flame, firing machine guns from each hand, it had just become ridiculous. And the finale is a CGI nightmare and a full-on scripting collapse. When the next movie arrives, I sincerely hope that Reeves goes out of his way to push for a stronger story that takes a few more risks. Hell, one risk after the fantastic opening half hour would have been nice this time around. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)First thirty minutesFinal one hundred minutes3.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.