Johnnie Walker strikes again, only to-day it's Black Label and a mutant chimpanzee is drinking it in 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I wonder if it's officially product placement now. I can certainly think of a gas station that helped pay for the movie.
Directed by J.J. Abrams cohort Matt Reeves (director of Cloverfield and the pointless and unasked for American remake of Let the Right One In), the film also features Keri Russell, star of Reeves' and Abrams' Felicity, in a supporting role.
She ought to have been the star and it's not really clear why her boyfriend, played by a bland white guy named Jason Clarke, gets to do everything. The movie's enjoyable, a nice adventure film, though the most impressive thing about it is the cgi and motion capture work on the apes.
Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, his ability to project character through cgi apparently still unrivalled and really remarkable. The film's apes whose faces are slightly more articulated than real apes hover always between ape and something else, making them captivating.
Though my favourite bit is that Johnnie Walker drinking ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), who's the villain of the film and mostly looks truly intimidating. But he manages to get close to a couple dumb, gun nut humans by suddenly acting like a daft, playful, trained chimp.
Koba's human counterpart is Carver (Kirk Acevado), a trigger happy paranoid human who hates all apes but for some reason Clarke's character Malcolm considers it essential for Carver to join the small team of humans who negotiate with the apes to allow them to repair a hydroelectric dam in ape territory. Malcolm vaguely explains it's because Carver worked at such a place before human civilisation collapsed.
It's not hard to guess the whole plot of the movie from there. I wonder if I ought to feel as weird as I do about the lack of strong female ape characters. Caesar has a wife who has a baby and mostly just stands or lays in the background looking worried. When Koba briefly takes over, she and her baby completely disappear until popping back up at the end without any explanation of where she was in that time. Malcolm's team also have two ape friendly guys who just vanish inexplicably at one point--the movie certainly seems to have trouble keeping tabs on its characters.
I guess female apes having a smaller social role makes sense since they're a primitive society that values physical strength but that doesn't explain why there are no female leaders among the human refugees in San Francisco--though Gary Oldman does a good job playing the leader--or why the second biggest star in the film, Keri Russell, has to be sidelined to a caretaker nurse role while the virtually unknown and uninteresting Clarke makes all the big decisions. Well, I guess evolution just hasn't gotten that far yet.