Monday, 14 July 2014

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Chuck Heston, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why must I put up with this abysmal contemporary reboot?

2014: Boy-crush hug twixt
Jason Clarke & Andy Serkis
1968: Hot open-mouth kiss twixt
Kim Hunter & Chuck Heston
2014: When men are wimps
1968: When men are men among men
2014: When women are bedraggled hags
1968: When women are Linda Harrison as "NOVA"
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) *
Dir. Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke,
Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I pity all of you. Some came of age to (Ugh!) Star Wars, others came of age to (Ugh!) John Hughes or (Ugh!) The Goonies, yet others came of age to (Ugh!) Toy Story or (Ugh!) Jurassic Park, and even worse, many came of age to (Ugh!) Harry Potter, and then, perhaps worst off of all are those who will come of age to (Ugh!) stupid, noisy superhero comic book movies and those who will be completely bereft of originality will come of age to (Ugh!) reboots like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its (Ugh!) dull, mediocre sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. What's next? Afternoon of the Planet of the Apes? Tea-Time of the Planet of the Apes? Night of the Living Dead Planet of the Apes? Seriously, all of you not only have my pity, but my condolences for childhoods that could really be little more than living the death of a thousand cuts to thine brain and soul. About the best that can be said in favour of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that it's not as dreadful as Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This is predominantly due to the fact that it has a real director, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) at the helm. Alas, he struggles valiantly, but unsuccessfully with an utterly boring screenplay and no real reason (artistically) for the picture to exist.

In fact, the entire reboot exists only to fill the 20th Century Fox coffers with dough from a lot of desperate and stupid movie-goers. The Original Five (kind of like the N.H.L.'s Original Six) is a perfectly fine series of films and frankly, Franklin J. Schaffner's original 1968 Planet of the Apes is not only a bonafide masterpiece, but it's so terrific that it holds up beautifully to this day on levels of both storytelling and craft that dazzles. As everyone knows, the first picture took us on a thrilling journey to a topsy-turvy planet by way of time travel and subsequent films offered a series of entertaining, often exciting and boldly satirical adventure films which perversely added up to one massive time warp - one which led to a never-ending cycle of the same mistakes wrought by humanity and an ever-present and always inevitable reality that nuclear annihilation is, was and always would be the end result.

The sheer genius of this within the context of popular entertainment is one thing, but that each film was infused with buoyant snap, crackle and pop by way of thrilling classical adventure always tempered with great humour - some black, some satirical and often, just plain hilarity emanating naturally out of the drama - is what made the original film and its sequels immortal.

The reboot is dull on several fronts, but the most egregious flaw in its storytelling is to begin, literally, with the beginning. The second big problem is just how dour, serious and irredeemably humourless the whole thing is. There's one laugh in all of Dawn that's surprisingly clever - so much so I won't ruin it for you save to note that it's rooted in the kind of satire so prevalent in Schaffner's 1968 original and that wended its way through the sequels - and involves an ape equivalent to the antics of a Steppin' Fetchit or Mantan Moreland to curry favour with the "dominant" race in films of yore.

Dawn begins ten years after Rise. The virus which sprouted in the last movie has decimated almost the entire human race. In the city of San Francisco, those humans who were resistant to the terminal illness, live in isolation and fear that their meagre power supply will soon run out. The apes, on the other hand, are living idyllically in the forests of northern Cali and getting stronger and smarter. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still their leader, but his authority is being challenged by Koba (Toby Kebbell), a violent warmongering ape. The human beings are led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), a stirring orator of the fascist variety who grudgingly allows Malcolm (Jason Clarke) a few days to try and peacefully negotiate with the apes for access to the nearby power dam in order to get San Fran up and running again.

Malcolm drags Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his sensitive (Ugh!), artistically-inclined son and Ellie (Keri Russell), his (Ugh!) supportive, loving and oddly haggard nurse girlfriend along with a few other fellas to do their power dam magic. Everything twixt human and ape in the jungle seems reasonably "Kumbaya, My Lord" until bad apes pull bad shit and bad humans pull bad shit and hell breaks loose.

Eventually, order is restored, but a storm's a brewin' with imminent all-out war for the next sequel.


Both the performances and characters of the humans are strangely lacklustre and the apes (save for Caesar and Koba) are indistinguishable from one another - a far cry from the indelibly-etched characters on both sides of the equation in the 1968 classic and its sequels. While there is an inevitability of doom and despair in the 60s/70s Apes pictures, nothing is ever oppressively dreary and predictable the way it is here.

Reeves handles some of the action sequences with the sort of aplomb one would want, but because we have no real investment in any of the characters, his efforts are all for naught.

There's a lot of noise and thunder here, but finally, this is a film which is perfectly emblematic of the sheer unimaginative roller coaster amusement park rides that major studio films are transforming into. The 3-D, as per usual, adds nothing to the proceedings save for inducing headaches and muting the colour and sharp contrast of the visuals.

Again, all I can do is offer my pity to audiences so starved for a good picture that they're willing to suffer through this unoriginal mess that been crapped upon them by a studio system that's increasingly losing its way into a miasma that I suspect cinema might have a hard time recovering from.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is in humungously wide release via 20th Century Foz and predictably drawing in audiences throughout the world.

For more elaboration on the Original Five and my vitriol about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, feel free to read my review of that film HERE.