First let me apologize for not getting that Earth to Echo review out. I will make an attempt this evening, but first I want to talk to you about a sequel. Sequels notoriously have a curse for being less awesome than their predecessor. There are a handful in all of time that break that. Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II being two of the most prominent. August 5, 2011 saw the reboot of a franchise that was abused to the point it still causes flashbacks. Burtons version is at best an abomination and at worst a cinematic enema on the audience and good movie making.
But…enough of that 2011 we got Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This was a fantastic film very few people saw. It only opened to $54 million and went down hill from there. This was a crime. It had all the makings of a fantastic work. Good acting. Good editing. Good graphics. Good story. While not a flawless film, it is an amazing one that sadly only made $176 million domestically. It was enough though, enough for a sequel three years later. A sequel released this week.
Does it measure up?
So the movie picks up about a decade after the first ends, and this is me tap dancing to avoid spoilers. The Apes have their culture and humanity has its own. They live in ignorance of each other and sadly that ignorance is about to be shattered.
Lets talk acting first. Just give Andy Serkis an Oscar. Now. Don’t wait til January and don’t snub him again. If anyone and I mean anyone says you cannot act sufficiently through Mo-Cap or make up do me a favor and smack them in the face with a good open hand slap. Serkis is a genius. Nothing in his performance as Ceasar is lost or wasted. Every body language pose, posture, and shift is there for us. His face is a map to raw emotion. What words there that exist are used so sparingly forcing the man to do so much more through sign and expression. You always know what he is feeling, what he is thinking with barely a syllable uttered. This is acting. This is what others need to aspire to when they do motion capture. Peter Jackson has just had someone set the bar higher.
Nearly everyone else is passable against the magnificence that is Ceasar. Jason Clarke, a man usually relegated to secondary or tertiary roles in film and TV brings an A game many doubted he had. This isn’t the man from White House Down, Zero Dark Thirty or the Great Gatsby. This is a potential headliner still in need of some refinement but one who holds his own remarkably well. Its a hard task to carry the weight of the human centerpiece on your shoulders in this movie and he seems up to it. He even proves a great counterpoint to Gary flippin Oldman.
Sadly he is the only human who has a really well defined personality or chance to show it. Everyone else is a stereotype of some kind or somehow useless. I didn’t even know Keri Russells character name. Oldman too is a stereotype, but one you can empathize with. He takes a note from his own playbook and brings it back to the subtle for the most part. Ok subtle for Oldman. This is a very Gordon like performance for him. When the cracks show in the veneer of control is when you see what he is and it works.
The Apes on the other hand are the stars. Everything Transformers gets wrong in this space, THIS movie gets right. None of the actors are particularly well known and are never actually seen. Each performance as an Ape is nuanced. Everything that Serkis delivers is brought to the game by the other actors. He set a bar and they reached for it and were largely successful in doing so. Its magic.
It’s the uncanny valley.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is -generally – the point in which human likeness in something unreal becomes so close to real we grow uncomfortable. This movie tips the balance. The graphics work is so near perfect in every detail its hard to believe we are not looking at actors in make up at times. Reality and computers have come closer than ever and are nearly…nearly flawless in execution within this film. Nothing to date comes close to how real the Apes appear.
Add to that particularly inspired design choices. Brilliant even. The use of sign language over voice speech by the apes was the act of an ingenious mind. Animal behaviorists will have a field day on the accuracy of the movements and actions of the ape society. Research was done. Effort was put into place. It paid off. These are details many would not realize are there, but I’ve lived with a vet tech for a decade and a half now. We’ve discussed these things, studied them for games, and have a basic above average understanding. Trust me when I say it is well done in this space.
Ok so. I referenced the Godfather II and Empire Strikes back earlier. Yes this movie is in the same calibre as them. It IS that good. The only true suffering is in the pacing. The bridge between act II and III is just too long and drawn out. Aside from that it is an excellent film we SHOULD be going to see.
Just like Snowpiercer the week before, these are the movies we need to be giving our money to. These are the movies we need made.
Yes, you should see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
But Jess should we see it in 3D? – ok no. 3D adds nothing but ticket price.
Go see it in 2D and enjoy it for all its worth. Tell hollywood with your wallet where we need to have movies made. Good stories, acting, plots, and effects are rolled into one.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while an homage to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, shines in its specialness and could – if we are lucky – be the dawn of a new era of movies.