REVIEW: The Secret Life Of Pets

•03/07/2016 • Leave a Comment

5

The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) is the latest feature by growing animated company Illumination Entertainment, best known for the Despicable Me series and the Minions spin-off film. As opposed to other animation studios, such as Pixar, much of the films made by Illumination have soft spots for humour. In fact, it is often their ball of light.

Like the majority of animated films nowadays, The Secret Life Of Pets had a successful marketing campaign leading to its summer 2016 release. The first trailer was met with mass acclaim and popularity, further reflecting the film’s unique concept that raises a curious question – what do our pets do at home when we’re out? As we have seen this similar idea before in other films such as the Toy Story series, The Secret Life Of Pets had potential to provide entertainment and some imaginative speculation about their lifestyle. However, that was not always the case when watching it, and this review explains why the concept is ruined from the actual plot.

 

 

Anthropomorphic Pets & Their World

Like the majority of animated films featuring animals, they are anthropomorphic. Ones that not only speak like humans but also think like us and, to an extent, behave like us too. They all still maintain the physical appearance of their species and breed type, some of which are accurate and others are perhaps exaggerated. That being said, the majority of the pets represent a certain social class determined by physical presence, by how their owners appearance and behaviour or the choice of voice actor.

For example, Gidget is a pampered, feminine cat who has the attributes of a teenage girl and it can only suggest that her owner has a similar personality to her. There can be a contrast to that archetype, though, such as the unexpected yet hilarious incident of a poodle head-banging to rock music.

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Despite this humane representation, viewers still identify these characters as pets. Particularly how they bark and meow to humans is them actually talking, including amongst other dogs and cats. There are genuine elements to it, at least within the first 10 minutes. As seen in the first trailer, everything from it makes the final cut (thankfully!). We are introduced to an ensemble of pets in a local neighbourhood to get up to mischief without their owners. It’s all funny and entertaining as it makes viewers think. However, from when they were introduced, the development of characters and flow of story deteriorates. From a concept that deemed to be unique and original turns a story that falls flat and fails to achieve its potential.

 

A Recycled Story and Intertextual References

The general idea behind The Secret Life Of Pets is a unique one which has ties to how pets and humans interact within a normal society. As previously stated, the first 10 minutes introduces the pets and their surroundings. There appeared to be a genuine attempt to capture the nature of a pet’s bond with their owners. However, after this point when the story does get underway, the film goes downhill as it became a cheesier and recycled version of Toy Story.

The Secret Life Of Pets follows a storyline that instead of being genuine as well as entertaining about a pet’s lifestyle, it exaggerates it within a fantastical context. Instead of being original or genuine to the nature of a pet, it instead follows a story that suddenly falls flat and cheesy. The film would have been more interesting if it followed a Fantastic Mr. Fox-like structure by not exaggerating animal’s lifestyle when not at home but instead focusing on how they naturally live. Perhaps how a cat lives independently by catching a mouse in the bushes.

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Despite the flat storyline, there are some unique intertextual references in The Secret Life Of Pets. First, there is a clear homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) as an animated version of the poster is seen clearly in Max’s owner’s house. There’s also a reference to Some Like It Hot (1959) in quoting the film’s famous final quote – “I’m a man (cat)” with a reply to “Well, nobody’s perfect”. Also, there is a clear homage to Grease (1978) in a fantasy/imaginary sequence with “We Go Together” song being played. These references may have been made for adults in recognition for that Secret Life of Pets is a more child-friendly film. That being said, it doesn’t entirely contribute to the film’s overall quality.

 

A Connected Universe and Targeted Humour

From the studios behind Despicable Me, its sequel and Minions comes a film that appears to have started a connection. We certainly know for sure that they are all set in the same universe. A short Minions film featured before the featured Secret Life of Pets, perhaps taking a page out of Pixar’s book. It is particularly clear as the same gnome in the Minions short appears in The Secret Life of Pets; not to mention a similar neighbourhood.

The Secret Life of Pets also had the potential and perhaps promises to deliver an exceptional amount of comedy for all audiences to enjoy. In it features a large amount of slapstick humour, like seen in Despicable Me and Minions. However, it doesn’t take itself seriously as a comedy and it is perhaps only jokes that children would find funny. Therefore, indicating that the exaggerated representation of pets along with the gags would only be highly entertainment for children.

 

Conclusion

The entire concept of The Secret Life of Pets had a tremendous amount of potential to be great. It got to a point of excitement. However, it follows an almost identical structure to Toy Story and we all know the significance of that film. The Secret Life of Pets may have tried to do the same, and maybe on this kind of story have success limitations. The Secret Life of Pets is not necessarily a bad film for adults and good for children, but it is one that I would consider as an empty promise. A slight disappointment with its unique idea for all audiences which falls flat from wanting to only entertain the kids.

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REVIEW: Inside Out

•04/08/2015 • Leave a Comment

10

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Pixar Animation Studios appeared to have gone off the radar for a while having not released a film since Monsters University in summer 2013. Instead, they have been working on two new original projects for 2015, one of which being Inside Out. Being Pixar’s 15th feature and their 11th original story, Inside Out could be their strangest yet most fascinating picture to date. It embarks us on an adventure about aspects that are seen in practically every film (feelings), but within lays the manufacturing of those feelings and contending of how they can be controlled. In this respect, the concept of Inside Out is central to all Pixar characters and their complex phases of childhood, adolescence, parenthood, grief, identity and self-discovery. The film allows us to explore our own imaginations (which have always been Pixar’s speciality) within not so much a fictional world, but about life itself and how it is manifested through the actions we take through feelings. Inside Out may sound obscure on paper, especially for kids, but the on-screen execution elicits a both entertaining and educational value for all audiences alike.

Inside Out follows a very similar structure to many Disney films – characters develop, situation is perfect, something goes wrong and then the goal is to restore it (Frozen being a recent example). However, instead of it being that straightforward, Inside Out is a narrative parallel that combines both fantasy and reality in its connotations of the fantasy-adventure inside Riley’s mind and the family-drama regarding Riley’s life and her circumstances. The film’s co-director Pete Docter has demonstrated this before with Up in 2009, only this time providing us a story that, in many ways, holds a piece of every Pixar film. Everyone has feelings and Docter’s story helps us understand the basic yet most relatable concept of what could be inside the other characters’ minds as well as our own as viewers. For example, the functions inside Riley’s mind that concern her memories and emotions, such as the Islands of Personality and Memory Dump are easy to understand for all audiences. Also the fact that Riley’s memories, including her core ones and emotional reactions within her mind function through technology further elicits a more relatable standpoint towards contemporary viewers. Nevertheless, the complexities of how feelings are constructed are portrayed as an educational concept for kids to understand but the humane execution through these emotions is significant for adults to appreciate.

The film’s central tagline already states – “what if feelings have feelings?”, and Inside Out’s feelings are actually protagonists themselves but in a human form. All five central emotions are humanised and each represent a social identity – Joy as a maternal figure in her 30s, Disgust as an 18-25 year old woman, Fear as a teenage geek, Anger as a washed-up middle-aged man and Sadness as an aging pensioner. This is substantial to the majority of voice performers, notably Amy Poehler as Joy and Phyllis Smith as Sadness. In fact, these characters match their voice performers, or at least their star personae. They each play a significant role within Riley’s life and both their separation and connections convey how we as human beings maintain conscious thoughts and control the actions we take in life. Their collaboration and involvement in the narrative resembles other great Pixar groups including the toys (Toy Story), rats (Ratatouille), dogs (Up) and the sea underworld (Finding Nemo). 11-year-old Riley is also a protagonist on an equal level to the five central emotions. As we see the five feelings running inside Riley’s mind, it may allow viewers to imagine further of the thoughts within other Pixar children’s and exploring their horizons; i.e. Andy & Bonnie (Toy Story), Boo (Monsters Inc), Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack (The Incredibles), Russell (Up) and Merida (Brave). Emotions are central to an audience’s imagination, but Pixar exploring it through children, specifically Riley, reflects a genuine and sophisticated interpretation. Inside Out examines phases of childhood and adolescence only to interpret through these emotions that feelings are central to showing our true selves, and in her difficult circumstances, Riley shows her emotional downpour and her emotional strength as the narrative progresses. Interestingly, we get a glimpse of inside other characters’ minds, primarily Riley’s parents, and understand a child-friendly interpretation of adulthood. Within scenes that feature the parents’ minds, Pixar pays great attention to detail of adulthood and social identity from their own Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy and Sadness, such as facial hair, lipstick and glasses that connect them to the actual individual. Interestingly, though, Inside Out does not feature an actual antagonist and because feelings and life situations are the story’s central premise, the obstacles of Riley’s new life in San Francisco is considered the villain.

Pixar’s Inside Out is a magnificent triumph in both its entertaining and educational values. It may be considered their most unorthodox picture to date as it does not entail a fantasy-adventure concept or have a strong emphasis on humour, but Inside Out is central to all Pixar films and one which, other than the obvious Easter Eggs or the mind-blowing Pixar Theory, connects them all together. 2015 is a very opportunistic year for Pixar with its two feature releases (Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur in November), but it is 20 years since the release of Toy Story. Inside Out touches upon many emotional, thematic elements, specifically in relation to life itself (like Toy Story and Pete Docter’s previous film Up). In summary, Inside Out is an extraordinary but heartfelt journey that returns to Pixar’s Golden Age once more and in its 20th year of feature filmmaking; it is a celebration of Pixar’s past achievements and is a significant reminder of what may be in store for the future.

REVIEW: Minions

•17/07/2015 • 3 Comments

7

600full-minions-posterOut of all the most beloved supporting characters in children’s film franchises from Puss in Boots in Shrek to the Penguins in Madagascar, perhaps none deserve their own feature film quite like the Minions in Despicable Me. The beloved yellow, dungaree-wearing creatures played a huge part in those two films, mainly due to their humorous nature and unique appearances for children to enjoy, and they certainly do deserve a film about them. Although not an adaptation, Minions is set approximately fourty years before the events of Despicable Me which loosely uncovers their origins in a somewhat comical, parody-like effect. By following through traits of history and modern day life, the Minions go on a wild ride across the world and it is certainly a hilarious route along the way. Humour is the fuel behind the characters’ cultural status and that is what made Minions a successful spin-off, though the film does have its few problems.

As expected, the animation was splendid filled with rich imagery that enlightens the charming tone of the film. However, the film does not quite connect to the 3D conversion and unfortunately, it is because the imagery (as clear as it is) and camera shots do not convey to the breath-taking experience of three-dimensional cinema. In addition, the film perhaps did not have much to go onto, emotionally, as it was primarily the humour from the Minions and their figural expressions that would make it fun. In this sense, Minions did not provide as much warmth to the audience like the two Despicable Me films. The plot, of course, wasn’t going to be serious because the protagonists aren’t but there were some narrative elements in Minions that touched upon originality and uniqueness. For example, the evolution of Minions throughout moments of history, such as Ancient Egypt, was interesting because it allowed audiences to understand progression of fictional characters throughout our own history. The dialogue, particularly during scenes just featuring the Minions, was also hilarious as it often combined both their own witty language and often English.

In Despicable Me and its sequel, we know the Minions as a large group under Gru’s tenure but here in this spin-off, we are introduced to them as individuals. By following specifically Kevin, Stuart and Bob, the trio become joint protagonists in their adventures from the Antarctica to New York, Florida and London. Their path leads them across new characters including Scarlet Overkill, the main antagonist and voiced by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, and a parodied version of Queen Elizabeth II. The film centralises the Minions as the central focus and exaggerates many cultural aspects, including the United Kingdom’s government, as the Minions being up to no good is who they are and what the audience want to see. It may be considered stupid but being a film about the witty and clumsy Minions, it delivers in the sense of satisfying adults and certainly children.

As the film begins, Minions serves as a spin-off to Despicable Me but as the narrative developed, the film ultimately becomes a direct prequel. The film provided hints in the trailer, such as (40 years B.G. (Before Gru)), and it was a friendly touch leading from Minions to the events of Despicable Me and their lives with Gru. Minions did not have to be made at all and it may not need any more installments (other than Despicable Me 3), but they deserved their own stand-alone film and it is a fresh, fun, and enlightening treat for audiences of all ages.

REVIEW: Jurassic World

•14/06/2015 • Leave a Comment

4.5

600full-jurassic-world-posterIf there is any film in contemporary cinema that has endured more production hell (other than The Hobbit trilogy) and release complications, it is the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise. Having waited since 2001 after Jurassic Park III for another dinosaur adventure, here we are fourteen years later with Jurassic World. The film had numerous chips on its shoulders not only for the long-awaited anticipation but how it will deliver on both in its narrative time setting and its technological advancements. Many audiences were dazzled by the visuals and the spectacular experience of the series before this one (though some could debate about Jurassic Park III) and although it has the odd few flaws, Jurassic World is, thankfully, a huge success and deserves the critical acclaim it is currently receiving.

Like Jurassic Park III, the great Steven Spielberg was not at the helm of directing Jurassic World. He had his own vision of Jurassic Park in the 1990s with the first two films, an era when he was at his prime for adventure films that required a high production scale. This time, however, he did not take charge (though he was executive producer) and instead came Colin Trevorrow, a filmmaker who has made Jurassic World only his second directed film. To an extent, like many rebooted franchises these days, may have needed a brand new cast, director, producer etc to present to a new generation a broader interpretation of the franchise’s narrative and visual scale whilst simultaneously reflecting on the past. In Jurassic World, the plot is identical in many ways to the original Jurassic Park in 1993 (which may have let it down a tad), but the technological advancement caught up with the visual potential of the series and Trevorrow gave us an insane thrill ride. Emotionally, it attained to many aspects of the original film, like the heroic protagonists, the imaginary experience of witnessing dinosaurs for kids, the glorifying extreme-wide shots (like of the park and of dinosaurs in the fields), and the intense and terrifying action scenes. Of course, on a visual scale Jurassic World delivers and it is undoubtedly has the greatest computer-generated effects in the series so far but also narratively, the film is very entertaining and redefines the experience of the 1993 instalment but could have been more original.

It may have been a considerable to challenge to even come close to replacing Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore as the franchise’s leading cast. These days, though, if there’s any leading star with an acting charisma to deliver at the highest level of adventure films, it would undoubtedly be Chris Pratt. His character does resemble Alan Grant in the original Jurassic Park with his standard leading male hero characteristics but Pratt certainly lead a cast that has massively rebooted the Jurassic Park series (and he would be a strong candidate for rebooting Indiana Jones, too). In addition, Bryce Dallas Howard has starred in various films over the years, usually with mixed or failed critical reception, but she shines in Jurassic World as Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager, and she fits into a similar role as Laura Dern did in the original. Meanwhile, Jurassic World demonstrates the terrified but also dazzling experience of dinosaurs through the eyes of children, like the original. Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson portray brothers Gray and Zach (who are Claire’s nephews) who recreate the original’s adventure for children of their age today.

In some ways, Jurassic World may be considered a remake of the original Jurassic Park than a sequel, mainly because the plot is very similar but with more technological advancements, but this fourth installment is set over 20 years after Jurassic Park and it does provide hints and references to it, but it is a stepping stone to rebooting the franchise. As previously stated, the plot could have been more adaptable away from its original roots but that didn’t stop the film’s enjoyment. Alongside successful rebooted franchises like Planet Of The Apes, Star Trek, Batman, X-Men and James Bond, Jurassic World is the start of recreating the beloved series for another generation and while maintaining the spectacular adventure of its past familiarities. It certainly was worth the fourteen year wait, there is bound to be a sequel to the series (hopefully to be even better) and its original director Steven Spielberg should be proud.

REVIEW: Shaun The Sheep Movie

•08/02/2015 • Leave a Comment

4.0

600full-shaun-the-sheep-movie-posterSince originally being introduced as a supporting character in Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave in 1995, Shaun the Sheep has had his own television series through which has instilled another legacy within the Aardman world. Shaun’s TV show served as more of a spin-off to Wallace & Gromit, and has since been a success. On the other side of things, mainstream cinema have released a variety of family-friendly spin-off features based on characters within popular franchises; examples – Puss In Boots, Planes, Penguins of Madagascar and the upcoming Minions. Shaun The Sheep Movie is a unique one, though, as it is in itself a spin-off so it is chopping off references from not only the TV series but capturing a relatable world from Wallace & Gromit where it all began. Shaun the Sheep Movie may be a very child-friendly film and is perhaps targeted more towards them than adults but the stop-motion is, as always, wonderful to watch and the story is fun.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Aardman’s work was their breakthrough triumph of stop-motion animation. Beginning with Wallace & Gromit, Aardman produced an era of this extraordinary filmmaking technique. Shaun The Sheep Movie is definitely the clearest and most gorgeous, visually, of any film they have done so far. This is particularly how the film highlights British landscapes, through wide shots, tracking shots and close-ups of specific props. In that respect, Shaun The Sheep Movie is very much a depiction of British culture, like Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run illustrate, too. However, without being too cynical towards a child-friendly film and comparing it too much to past Aardman films, the plot lacked creativity. Despite there were some recycled aspects like returning characters from Shaun’s spin-off series, it often appeared corny with clear plot holes. The humour was convincing, too, with the odd jokes aimed at a mixed audience, though its pre-school qualities make it funnier for kids. Still, this may sound too harsh considering that this film is more for children’s eyes but that being said from an adult’s perspective; Shaun The Sheep Movie should be a delight for them and, depending on sense of humour, for adults too.

In terms of characterization, Aardman’s idea of a Shaun the Sheep spin-off feature seemed rather bold. This is primarily because the characters are mute and it is mainly the physical actions of the characters and camerawork which must move the plot forward for children to understand. Quite frankly, it worked pretty well and in some ways, it was like the first contemporary children’s silent film. This is where a lot of previously stated humour was exhibited in a more slapstick manner than through dialogue, which is what kids like to see. As a more independent character in the film and his TV series, Shaun still feels the same sheep as from the series and in A Close Shave from 20 years ago. The return of other beloved characters from the TV show, including sheepdog Bitzer, the naughty pigs and the Farmer, enhance further warmth. The latter does resemble Wallace in some ways (perhaps related?), through love for animals, independent lifestyle yet their mutual clumsy and naïve personality. Similarly, the primary antagonist – the animal catcher is typical as it makes his actions of catching stray animals, what seem realistically right, become villainous. He actually resembles Victor in Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.

Shaun The Sheep Movie is a delightful hats off to its predecessors, though not chronologically, and it is a heartwarming film for the family. You don’t have to be an avid fan of Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run or Aardman in general to enjoy this nor of the Shaun TV series. It has possesses many things that are friendly enough to be introduced to and enjoy – the story is simple to follow as are the characters. Nevertheless, despite being a successful TV series, Shaun the Sheep’s own feature film was perhaps irrelevant but it adds to the ranks of impressive spin-offs to past successful franchises and is another Aardman success.

REVIEW: The Hobbit – The Battle Of The Five Armies

•13/12/2014 • Leave a Comment

4.0

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-posterThe sad time has now come to bid our farewells to Middle-Earth. It’s been a long wait coming after the series’ pre-production hell before shooting commenced and its two predecessors’ release in 2012 and 2013, but the finale of the 300-page book has arrived. It may have perhaps been too long as Peter Jackson has stretched such a short book into three 2½ hour films to perhaps re-live our experience of Lord Of The Rings. However, The Battle Of The Five Armies is a totally different ball-game to Return Of The King, not just by quality of film and story but where it will leave off. In that respect, Battle Of The Five Armies has arguably had the most weight on its shoulders – to bridge between completing the Hobbit trilogy and introducing Lord Of The Rings. From where the film begins and judging from the title, it had action and excitement written all over it, perhaps being the most potential instalment of the series regarding entertainment only. Now, while The Battle Of The Five Armies was a fitting and satisfying finale but there were moments in the film that became disappointing and wasn’t entirely the masterful climax as anticipated.

Though The Hobbit films have been well-received at the box office, some could argue that it is the reason why the 300-page book has been stretched into three films. However, Jackson stated that more could be explored, including from the appendices, but the issue has been to re-create Lord Of The Rings when, despite being a predecessor and prequel, The Hobbit story is totally different. Anyway, Battle Of The Five Armies kicks off straight after Desolation Of Smaug and we get drawn right into the action. The pacing of the film was better than An Unexpected Journey, at least, but there were still moments in which it still appeared too stretched, such as (SPOILER ALERT) Thorin’s stubborn ‘madness’ and whether to help fight the Orcs. However, this wasn’t entirely a bad thing as it says in the title ‘Battle of the Five Armies’. It promised a lot of action and that’s what we got with great visuals, including Smaug and his fiery wrath on Lake-Town as well as the battle itself. Still, we got enough plots, some of which was a tad muddled and disorientated at times, particularly the Elf-Dwarf romance and Necromancer sequences. Still, The Hobbit book was too large a scale for one film and is perhaps too small for three 2 ½ films (would’ve fitted well at two films running approximately 120 minutes each), but The Battle Of The Five Armies has a slightly faster structure to round off the series.

As expected, it was great to see the ensemble cast return for one last time. Ian McKellen really does gel superbly as Gandalf the Grey and, perhaps more so than in An Unexpected Journey and Desolation Of Smaug, becomes the same one that we first saw in Fellowship Of The Ring. Similarly, Martin Freeman’s role as Bilbo was fantastic. He was literally the perfect actor for the role and in this film, he completes the adventure and thrills that elder Bilbo distinctly discussed in Fellowship Of The Ring. Richard Armitage’s bitter performance as Thorin Oakenshield establishes the anti-hero like critique of the character from the book, which worked well. However, despite all three stars gave great performances in their respective role the only issue was this: there didn’t seem to be one particular protagonist. It seemed like there were too many subplots and it often became uncertain as to who we should focus on more. Lord Of The Rings features separate storylines to achieve the same thing (Frodo, Sam and Gollum + Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf), but the difference is that The Hobbit characters are all together and the narrative centres on the group. That’s where it occasionally stretched the film a bit more. Needless to say, other supporting actors including Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Benedict Cumberbatch all made solid re-appearances.

Though some may do it anyway, there is really no comparing The Battle Of The Five Armies to Return Of The King. Yes, both end a trilogy in Middle-Earth but the general plot and tonal delivery are both different, not to mention the latter ends it all whereas the formers ends to start a new beginning. It has taken a long time to finish the adaptation of a 300-page book and despite being a tad stretched, The Battle Of The Five Armies is a suitable, enjoyable and convincing enough finale to the trilogy. Peter Jackson, it’s been a wonderful ride for us, the audience, to embark into Middle-Earth with six films for approximately 1031 minutes and its unfortunate to see it go, but it will remain in our memories for eternity.

REVIEW: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

•14/08/2014 • Leave a Comment

4.5
dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apesAlthough the original installment released in 1968 remains a classic, Planet Of The Apes as a franchise has been mixed due to its mediocre sequels and the 2001 remake. Those films portrayed an ape-dominated world as more like science-fiction adventures than displaying humans and apes as a family with a joint ancestral history. This is where Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes succeeded because it captured the heart and more realistic tone, including the visual effects, of humanity’s resemblance to apes. It also had a more original touch to it as Hollywood filmed it from more a scientific angle with more depth. Thankfully, its sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a triumph and it could be one of the few follow-ups these days to have outshined the predecessor. The reason for Dawn’s superiority above Rise is due to the story examining further between what constitutes being human and being ape through themes as well as enhancing character study. Still, Dawn continues this tremendous rebooted franchise with more drama and adventure than before.

The majority of mainstream Hollywood films are about the computer-generated effects. They have been utilized to enhance the visual cinematic experience through genres of either especially action or fantasy/science-fiction, but rarely do we see effects primarily centred for drama. Although we got action scenes in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the film’s CGI and motion-capture is arguably the greatest and most realistic ever produced onto the screen. Only the art of performance capture could have worked when performing as apes because the film’s message compares and contrasts their connection with humanity. The fact we do not see the actors as these apes on-screen illustrates how they differ themselves from humans yet at the same time, the performer’s actions establish that connection further. In terms of the actual effects, the attention to detail was unbelievable which on occasions appeared as clear as high-definition at a higher frame rate. To illustrate this, director Matt Reeves numerously used close-ups and extreme close-ups. These shots become effective in showing character development and the significance became vital when expressing them. Still, if there is a film to show you how CGI is done properly, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes will fill you in.

The film is set ten years after the events of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and besides the leading ape Caesar, wonderfully portrayed via motion-capture by Andy Serkis, we see a new ensemble cast. In place of James Franco, Jason Clarke portrays Malcolm who is a genuine family man and the leader of a small group of humans within ape territory. Clarke’s character is roughly the same as Franco’s in Rise but his relationship with Caesar is heartfelt and engaging. Keri Russell and Kodi-Smit McPhee portray Malcolm’s girlfriend and young son. This is where Dawn, to a degree, resembles itself to Jurassic Park – a small group with a family wandering into a whole new wilderness on Earth. Gary Oldman has been an actor of many talents and portrayed a number of heroes and villains throughout his career, but his role as Dreyfus is an interesting one because he is, in fact, neither of them. He hates the apes for making him lose his family and he wants what’s best for his species, like Caesar does, but he comes across as a villain. So, Oldman’s performance was solid, too. However, the obvious stand-out performer is Andy Serkis who absolutely masterfully portrayed Caesar through motion-capture, a style of acting that he is best known for. From Gollum to Kong and now to Caesar, Serkis has illustrated that even through CGI, we can experience raw human emotions and it goes to show that acting is not about facial expression and body language is equally important. The rest of the motion-capture performances were by unknown actors and there were certain characters that stood out which include Koba, Blue Eyes, Maurice, Rocket and Ash. Still, Serkis was the right guy to lead the other cast of motion capture roles.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes follows in the footsteps of great sequels that surpass the predecessor. Like Rise, Dawn does not necessarily serve as a direct prequel to the 1968 classic but tells tales of joint dominations on Earth between mankind and apes on a more emotional, realistic scale. For perhaps the first time in the franchise, Dawn also constitutes what makes one human and one ape and actually teaches viewers with lessons about how both species are different whilst simultaneously reflecting similarities. Nevertheless, it is a superb sequel that is more engaging, both visually and emotionally, and leaves the viewers with more excitement for a third installment.