Intelligent Apes, Mindless Entertainment
- Thursday, July 10, 2014
Release Date: July 11, 2014
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 130 minutes
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Judy Greer, Toby Kebbell, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary
It's been ten years since Caesar (Andy Serkis, King Kong) led his band of genetically-altered simians into Muir Woods at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They've been good years for Caesar and company. The apes have built a community in the forest. Caesar even settled down with a wife and family.
For humans, things have not gone so well. As predicted at the end of the previous film, a manmade virus has spread far and wide, leaving chaos and anarchy behind. San Francisco is a shell of its former self, populated by a band of huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Actually, they're yearning for electricity so they can get back online and, you know, get their former lives back. Humans. So clueless.
Each group (apes and humans) blames the other for all the world's ills. This is not a big problem when they don't have to interact, but when Malcolm (Jason Clarke, Zero Dark Thirty) leads a crew into the woods and the two species come face to face, the result is about what you'd expect. In fact, almost everything about this movie is "about what you'd expect." You've seen it all before: sometimes as a western, sometimes sci-fi or period drama, but name any "settlers versus natives" scenario, make one side a hairy bunch that communicates mostly in grunts, and you've got it. Every cliché is covered, from father-son disagreements to an enemy saving the life of a beloved tribe member to the one crazy sidekick who goes bananas and starts a war. Now, well-trodden ground isn't necessarily a bad thing; we see these narratives over and over because they actually make good stories.
Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis does a fine job conveying a wide range of emotions—not the easiest task, given his appearance. A more mature adult than the young revolutionary of the first film, Caesar is "still developing his 'inner-ape'," according to Serkis. Caesar just wants everyone to get along, preferably at a distance. On the other hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell, Wrath of the Titans), who spent his early years as a laboratory test subject, is of the opinion that the only good human is a dead human. When he touches his scars and categorizes them as "human work" you can't help but see his point.
Over on Team Human, Malcolm is joined by his son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In), a boy who can barely remember a time when the world was normal and his mom was alive. Rounding out their little family is Ellie (Keri Russell, Waitress) a former medical professional with the Center for Disease Control who seems to be a relative newcomer to her relationship with Malcolm, but they make a good pair. She's tougher than she looks, and she'll need to be. Then there's Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight), the leader of the San Francisco colony. He makes some stirring speeches, but mostly this is a story about two families—one human, one ape—just trying to survive.
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