DM Haight

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It’s a heck of a mouth full just getting the title out. But what is more of a mouthful would be trying to write out every awesome detail of the scifi epic. And an epic it is.

I went to the theater with my girlfriend. She had watched the first of the remakes the night before and had really enjoyed it. I was surprised, stupefied, etc. And just as we’re sitting down to watch the movie, she gets overly excited. The lights dim, and this world emerges—one I expect we’ll be seeing infinitely more of, be it from future Ape films, or just more of the social apocalypse films we’ll be seeing in the next few years. San Francisco is in ruins. The mist hangs over the mountains near the city. Foliage has taken over everything humanity had previously put their mark on. It was like stepping into a new universe where nature had challenged and won in a fight for supremacy.

And then we see Caesar. The lab chimp born of a formerly free ape has donned the role of chieftain in a tribe of not-so-rogue apes, consisting, but not limited to, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. Imagine a whole new civilization comprised of a hundred different tribes of Natives. Now imagine that super tribe once fought off a huge force of invaders, found that they all died of a disease they created, and were living happily, with archaic schools teaching English. That’s what the society of the Apes is like. It’s more peaceful than a hippy commune.

Of course the humans have to come out, attack, war ensues, triumph, betrayal, yada yada yada. That’s all great, it really is. All that story and writing deserve a ton of credit for making the film stellar. Because it we’re being honest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes deserves a ton of accolades, and not just from the scifi community. It’s done what few other films have managed to do this year—exert raw emotion on the audience. More than a few times a heartstring was pulled during the movie. And when scifi can do that, it’s done its job better than most. Matt Reeves and the writing team deserve every bit positive karma coming their way after having crafted a heartfelt drama in a war between human and its distant ancestor. Reeves’ direction is immaculate, powerful, driving. There will not be a better action movie this year that will yield the same range of emotions as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But this is not why people will be talking about Apes.

Andy Serkis. He’s played a hundred roles and you’ve barely seen his face. And that’s because you don’t need to. He’s single-handedly changing the way we make scifi epics. His range does not come from his impeccable acting ability (which he does have). Instead it comes from the range of what artists can do with his acting ability. He’s Caesar. He’s the chimp. Serkis is the force behind the digital mask. Without him there would likely have been no Caesar. He’s made the claim that motion capture actors like himself deserve more acclaim. While I’d agree I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’s the pillar by which fails or succeeds. No doubt his ability is unmatched, but the CGI work is unbelievable. And yes, I mean that I cannot believe that that orangutan’s face is digitally created. The apes swinging through the trees couldn’t have possibly been created in a computer. But it was. The dynamic work Serkis was capable of helped make the impossibly beautiful work of the artists even more impossibly good. All the cogs and whistles came together as one phenomenal piece of film. Every expectation was met. Every motion felt. And it’s only made us yearn for the next chapter in the book of Caesar.

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