Dawn Rises Above Other Planet Of The Apes Films

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The newest Planet Of The Apes film, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a direct sequel to the surprisingly great and captivating Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. That film introduced audiences to the wonder of Caesar (mo-capped by the great Andy Serkis), the first speaking, super intelligent ape and his struggle against humanity. That strife continues with this new film that takes place ten years after the last one. Anyone who saw the last movie knew that in the wake of Caesar’s simian uprising, a genetically engineered virus accidently began to spread throughout humanity and this new movie shows us the aftermath of the pandemic.

Half the human population is gone, but remnants of society are struggling to rebuild. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes takes place in a ruined San Francisco, where a colony of humans plan to use a dormant hydroelectric dam to restore power to the broken city. What the humans didn’t realize is that a burgeoning civilization headed by super intelligent apes (consisting of chimps, gorillas and orangutans) occupies the land where the dam is located.

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During a scouting trip, a group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) encounters the apes. A tense standoff ensues that is ended when Caesar commands the humans to leave the primeval forest. Back in San Francisco, the leader of the colony, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) wants to take an army and decimate the apes, but Malcolm recognizes Caesar’s intelligence and reason. He manages to buy time from Dreyfus to return to the forest and negotiate for permission to work on the apes’ land and reactivate the dam. Malcolm and his group return and manages to convince Caesar that they are peaceful and so the ape leader allows them to work on the dam, though he is very distrustful towards the humans.

There is a thick tension that hangs throughout this film as audiences wait for the fragile peace to break. But there are moments of quiet contemplation and reverence as Malcolm and the humans connect with Caesar and many of his apes. Of course, while many humans, especially those in the city, strongly dislike the apes, so too, do many apes harbor hostility towards the humans. Leading this contingent is the brutally ugly Koba (Toby Kebbell), who was briefly seen in the last film as a victim of lab experimentation. Koba with his ghastly scars has an unquenchable hatred towards humans and as Caesar’s second-in-command, cannot fathom why the simian leader is so lenient towards the humans. Shockingly enough, this distrust also extends to Caesar’s own son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), who provides an intriguing sub plot where he grapples with his own feelings towards humans. This is part of a spiritual tug of war between Caesar and Koba, as the latter ape uses deceit to bring Blue Eyes to his point of view. Continue reading

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The Robocop Remake Has A Surprising Human Core

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Relax people, the remake of Robocop is actually a good movie. Now the main question is if it’s as good as the original? No, it isn’t. Still, it’s light years better than those abysmally bad sequels that followed the original Robocop, and it has its own identity.

This Robocop remake follows the basic story of the original. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is an undercover detective for the Detroit police in the near future who is nearly killed in a car bomb explosion that leaves him paralyzed and with major injuries. Enter Omnicorp, the multinational corporate leader in robotic soldiers and cybernetics. The company’s CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is trying to have Omnicorp’s products sold and used for civilian law enforcement purposes in the U.S. Standing in his way is that it’s illegal to use robots in such a manner in the U.S. He decides to skirt around the law by having his scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) transplant Murphy’s head, right hand and some major organs into a robotic body, thus creating a cyborg policeman.

Joel Kinnaman

This film differs a bit from the original in that it examines more closely Murphy’s struggle with his lost humanity. As he recovers, he’s horrified that he is more machine than man, and later Norton, under orders, suppresses Murphy’s emotions to make him more efficient. At first, the nearly lobotomized Robocop is hailed as a hero in Detroit and the country for his swift and ultra proficient law enforcement methods. But over time, his emotions slowly re-emerge as he regains feelings for his wife and son (Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan) and begins going against protocol by carrying out his own mission. That is seeking justice for anyone who has wronged him, including Sellars, who sees Murphy as just a commodity.

Joel Kinnaman;Abbie CornishRobocop has surprising depth with its look at Murphy’s plight and brings up relevant questions about his humanity and the supposed superiority of machines. The film also covers the impact that the Robocop program has on society and politics. It’s an extrapolation of the predicaments we face today regarding security and corporate responsibility. While the original Robocop went over these issues, it was drowned out at times with its dark humor and satire. Here, these questions are front and center.

These issues are the core of Robocop, which helps it stand apart from the original. The film has great effects and action scenes, although it dragged a bit in some parts. The robotic designs are just exemplary and outdo the original. It helps that the suit is pretty awesome in its own right, even though it’s that solid black color that have the fanboys in an uproar. The suit is intimidating and surprisingly less clumsy looking than the original Robocop suit.

The film, however, sorely lacks the sardonic wit and pace that characterized the original classic. Director José Padilha isn’t Paul Verhoeven, but he does a better job than expected with the material and the actors. Oldman, as always Joel Kinnaman;Gary Oldman;Aimee Garciastands out with his typical stellar performance and serves as a conscience for what is going on, even though his hands aren’t that clean. Samuel L. Jackson was too over-the-top with his portrayal of Pat Novak, a histrionic talk show host/propaganda tool for Sellars. Here was an instance where the original’s witty commercials and news briefs gave a better picture of that futuristic society. Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), this movie’s version of Clarence J. Boddicker isn’t nearly as memorable, but that’s fine since the villainy is front and center Sellars and most of his employees, including Jackie Earle Haley as Mattox, a savage merc.

robocop newThose that prefer the original’s vicious satirical look at our commercialized society may want to avoid this remake. The same goes for gore hounds that reveled in Verhoeven’s macabre humor, this remake is PG-13 mind you. But a film’s rating shouldn’t count for its quality. Just go look at A Good Day To Die Hard, it had its R rating, but stunk compared to its PG-13 predecessor.

Despite its shortcomings regarding humor and gore, Robocop has its merits, including some food for thought.

José Soto