Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — 5/10

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014, Matt Reeves)

A fairly big disappointment after its predecessor (I know that RISE benefitted from low expectations for most people, but I loved the trailer and did not expect it to suck; beyond that, it held up great on second viewing), and I’m pretty baffled by the praise this is getting. It’s a reductive screed about war, full of lectures and darkly filmed action moments, and with few interesting characters. In RISE, we got to see Caesar develop not only as a baby chimp who becomes an intelligent adult, but one with conflicted emotions who slowly turns into a leader. Here, he’s fully formed and only has one thing left to wrestle with: how much trust to put into humans. Franco and Lithgow (and even Pinto to a lesser extent) were more interesting people and grounded RISE until it exploded in its third act. Here, no interesting humans come near the screen. Clarke and Russell are wastes of space, and I can’t believe they had to pay Gary Oldman to play such a forgettable role. I still love Serkis’s performance skills, Toby Kebbel makes the most of a one-note role, and the special effects are perfectly fine — but Reeves can’t find a way to make any of the action rousing (after the Golden Gate Bridge awesomeness of RISE, the climax here is a total snoozeburger) and his grasp on the material reaches only as far as the cliched, predictable speeches can go.

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