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Friday, July 11, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Tim's Review

Tim here, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best blockbuster movie I have seen so far this year! It currently ranks as the second best movie I've seen this year behind The Grand Budapest Hotel, which would have been fantastic in the stereoscopic 3D format. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has such a compelling story that is very well written and directed that it manages to transcend beyond the normal sci-fi summer blockbuster into a contemporary power struggle tale between two species and the factions within each.

In regards to the story, the writing, and character development it is not without some fault. There was a moment early on in the movie where the characters made a claim about how important it is for a certain character to come along with them into the ape territory to fix the dam to restore power to the human community. However after an incident he is sidelined without further explanation of how his expertise is missed when it comes to repairing the dam. Beyond that small plot hole I couldn't find any additional faults with the story. Although some of the main human characters lacked development the main ape characters made up for that. And the truth is the movie is more about the apes than the humans. However, it would have been nice to have equal attention given to both.

Within the apes' community there are three particular apes that had great development and were performed by the actors with great poise. In fact two of the ape performers were so mesmerizing in performance that their characters felt compellingly real. It was so easy to relate to both viewpoints and where each of those characters were coming from in terms of their motivations and intentions. Those two characters (and, the actors who played them) are Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Koba (Toby Kebbell) whose relationship is strongly built. Very early on it's displayed how they are close friends (loyal to each other) and rely on each other to lead the ape community. As the film progresses they represent two opposing sides within the ape community: peace and war.

Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar is magnificent and awe-inspiring! If Serkis does not get award nominations this award season it will be criminal. Through Serkis' performance the full weight that rests on Caesar's shoulders is so immediately conveyed. He's responsible for not only his family but, also, the entire ape community needs his leadership. Serkis conveys so many emotions visually in his performances, and succeeds on levels that are astounding, while the WETA Digital team that brought those emotions through the digital make did a fantastic job at making him believable.

The visual effects in this movie are remarkable; the best I've seen so far this year. The opening shot and closing shot of the movie, which have beautiful circularity, are wonderful examples of how far WETA has come. They focus on Caesar's eyes and use a zoom where beyond the close-up detail the audience witnesses the amazing level of artistry to create the skin and hair of the apes. The apes are shown in wet and rainy environments and it's amazing how realistic the hair reacts to that environmental element.

This is a movie that deserves to be seen in the 3D format!

Next the stereoscopic 3D in the movie was excellent. It was a very soft and subtle 3D, and it worked so well for the story. There were maybe a few places where I wished they had pushed it more, but overall it was really well thought out in its use. Props need to be given to 3ality Technica for their stereoscopic services on the film since it was their rigs that were used paired with the ARRI ALEXA. This is a movie that deserves to be seen in the 3D format! Michael Seresin's cinematography was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. It felt very naturalistic, and his use of lighting was fantastic. He used the full latitude of light and as well used color, or lack of, to convey the emotional points of the story. It felt grim, and at the same time Edenesque.

The production design and art department did a fantastic job as well. They accomplished so much in building practical sets and environments for the actors to work in. As well they helped build a sense of realism with those aspects. One of the most impressive was the single abandoned gas station in the middle of a forest. The moment when the humans and apes manage to restore power and go to it is an astounding one. It was made all the more powerful due to the production design.

A movie isn't complete without the sound and score, and both were fantastic. The sounds of the ape world were very well designed. A lot was built around what was heard and not seen in the movie, and that couldn't have been accomplished without the astounding work of the sound team. One of my favorite shots in the film worked so well because of the sound. Completely the sound-scape was Michael Giacchino's score, which was hauntingly beautiful. It hit the soft moments, hit the fast paced action moments, and emotionally connected me to the world all that much more.

Director Matt Reeves deserves mad props for his excellent direction of this motion picture. Going back to the favorite shot I mentioned earlier: it was a long tracking shot similar to what Alfonso Cuarón did in Children of Men, however it's not quite as long. It follows Malcolm (Jason Clarke) in a building that is overrun by apes hunting down humans as he desperately looks for medicine. The choices Reeves made as a director were spot on in so many places. He brought so many talented people together to create a rich and engaging world set to a complex and emotional story and did a great job leading the charge.

I highly suggest you go out and see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 3D. Make sure to see it on the biggest possible screen. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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Jim Dorey
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