I was excited for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was perhaps my first mistake. I should stop having high expectations for blockbusters, as they are almost never realized. Still, I remember very much enjoying the first installment of this remake. In fact, I remember bawling my eyes out like a twelve-year-old seeing My Girl for the first time, so I had high hopes for the sequel. I thought that if the film retained the heart and character-focus of the first film, but added the awesome-looking action that the trailer promised, we’d have ourselves one amazing movie. And also Gary Oldman.
There were a number of elements to this movie that worked well, and at the time my butt was in the theater-seat I did enjoy myself. The thing that really fascinated me about the movie was that the hero, the main-character, was not a human. Watching the film, I felt the greatest attachment to Caesar and the apes, which gave me the strange and unique experience of viewing the human characters as the ‘other.’ The special effects were great and the apes were enjoyable, enough so to keep me entertained throughout. Afterwards, however, I knew the movie would ultimately not linger with any significance in my memory. The reason I couldn’t love it was fairly obvious.
In my opinion, this movie shares a fault with many recent blockbusters. It has a lot of spectacle but a thinly realized script. In this case, the problem was bland, uninteresting human characters. The main human’s (Malcolm’s?) only defining characteristic is that he’s nice. Nice isn’t exactly memorable. Godzilla suffered from the same problem—while the special effects were all well and good, Ford Brody (ugh, I even hate his name) was essentially a piece of cardboard whose primary motivation was to get from point A to point B–Boring.
It is endlessly frustrating to me that Hollywood continually heaps millions of dollars onto projects with faulty framework—good movies, like any good story, need interesting characters and logical, well-paced plots. If they have stellar special effects as well, that’s fantastic. I like to watch robots fighting aliens as much as your next nerd, but a film needs something other than action and explosions to have staying power.
I’ve had Godzilla-defenders argue that the plot structure was similar to Jaws (a comparison that leaves me momentarily dumbfounded). True, in Jaws you don’t see the shark for quite a while, the movie focuses on the human characters. But the key difference is that the characters in Jaws were interesting! They had a unique flavor, amazing dialogue, and fascinating interactions. The scene in which they compare scars is one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema. If you want to give me a Godzilla movie with characters and dialogue of that calibre, I say ‘yes, please!’ But the notion that Ford Brody is in any way comparable to Brody, Quint, and Hooper is just absurd.
Take the original Planet of the Apes—it isn’t a fantastic film because of the monkey-suits. It’s great because Charleton Heston’s character is compelling and because the plot is a perfect sci-fi story: we’re thrust into a world with little explanation, learning along with the character, and in the end there is a wonderful twist. If Hollywood could give me stories of this quality with beautiful special effects I would be positively ecstatic. But, it seems to me that the special effects have become a crutch that leads to weak plots and weaker characters. I mean, why develop the protagonist when you can just destroy Manhattan (*cough* Man of Steel *cough*)?
This is undoubtedly my cry into the void, but please Hollywood, throw those millions of dollars at scripts with more merit. In the mean time, if you’re looking to see a movie in the coming weeks, I would suggest Snowpiercer. That movie was awesome.Denise Jans