Posts Tagged ‘Gollum’

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

July 11, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
An Active3D Movie Review

Movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rating:  **** (out of 5)

It’s no secret that Hollywood appears to be losing its ability to create new stories, and continues raiding the archives for old titles to “re-imagine”. Most of these efforts have been disappointing – if not utterly blasphemous – but, happily, the recent revisiting of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise has been quite rewarding. Of course, I’m not referring to Tim Burton’s widely cursed 2001 effort, but the 2011 entry [Rise of the Planet of the Apes], and now this sequel.

I’m still trying to figure out how the ‘Rise’ of said apes and their ‘Dawn’ are two different concepts, but I suppose that this isn’t a forum for semantics. The film (the first in the new series to be released in 3-D) begins with a résumé of the previous installment. San Francisco’s looking like the average downtown scene in South Africa (i.e. dilapidated). A relatively small group of surviving humans (a few hundred; maybe a thousand) lives in an encampment at what used to be the hub of San Fran’s Bay Area Rapid Transit underground rail system. Not far from there, in the wilds (possibly on Lake Merced?), there exists a thriving community of apes, near a now-disused hydroelectric dam – which the humans need in order to power their community. The humans are keen to kick-start the dam again, but the apes, however, have little reason to trust them, given this species’ track record of animal abuse, from which many members of the ape community still bear physical and emotional scars…

The film’s political and moral resonances are interesting, and it isn’t difficult to draw parallels with current human conflicts. In both the ape and human camps there are two factions; those whose decisions are driven by a moral, peace-loving imperative and those who are driven by a hostile tribal loyalty; i.e. supporting apes just because they’re apes, or humans, simply because they’re humans.

Playing the decent and empathetic human leader, Malcolm, is Jason Clarke, whilst Andy “Gollum” Serkis plays the voice of, and provides the body movements for, his ape counterpart, Caesar. Gary Oldman is the human bad guy, Dreyfus, while Koba the evil ape is voiced by Toby Kebbell. As in the 2011 film, the visual representation of the apes doesn’t entirely convince me, but fortunately the narrative does. This grippingly emotional drama plays itself out on an epic canvas, and it’s gratifying (for a change) to see that CGI is being put to the service of a proper story – unlike movies such as any of the Transformer series or most of the superhero franchise, where computer graphics are gratuitously employed to create seemingly endless, boring and noisy fight sequences.

At 130 minutes, ‘Dawn’ is possibly about 10 minutes too long, but that still compares favourably to the latest Transformers movie (last reviewed on these pages), which was two and three quarter hours of sheer, skull-bashing nothingness.

Those of us interested in matters political, will find much meat in this absorbing tale. As for the themes of unthinking group loyalty, it’s a mistake that South Africans have continued to make, and from which they’ve failed to learn, from one regime to the next…

 

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Little Guy Brings Big Tech

December 14, 2012

 

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♪ “Heigh ho, heigh ho / It’s off to do battle with a bunch of CGI creatures we go…” ♫

An Active 3-D review
Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3-D
Rating: *** (out of 5)

This adventure film, apart from being the apparently “highly anticipated” prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will probably be remembered for ushering in a new era of cinemagoing in South Africa. 

It’s the first movie to be shown, in selected theatres, in HFR (i.e high frame rate), the 48 frames-per-second format (i.e. double the frame-rate of standard cinema fare).

It’s also the first film exhibited in South Africa (or indeed, anywhere in the southern hemisphere) in Dolby’s new theatrical technology, Dolby Atmos.

More about these movie sciences in another entry; suffice it to say that the HFR, Digital 3-D, Dolby Atmos industry launch at Umhlanga’s Gateway cine 1 in Durban on Tuesday, December 11th, represented a milestone for those of us lucky enough to attend it.

Let us return, however, to our friend the Hobbit in the shire. The tale’s filmic interpreter, Peter Jackson – like his counterpart in the epics league, James Cameron – is quick to fall for a story’s roadshow potential, as opposed to its more human dimensions. Peter Jackson just can’t say no to an action/conflict scene; an indulgence that drives me to distraction. After about two hours, I was thinking, “Yeah; nice noisy action climax – are we done, and may I go for a wee now?” But no; there’s another where that came from. And another…

All of this spectacle deviates, I believe, from the quiet charm of the book. But what Jackson knows about subtle, Tyler Perry knows about funny. The special effects are indeed breathtaking, but they’re so densely laid on, and so protracted, that their splendor soon wears off. And they detract from the performances that members of the cast may be attempting to offer us. Although I remember The Hobbit to be only one book, largish tome as it was, I’m not sure that it contains enough narrative meat to be stretched out over three films, as the filmmakers are planning to do.

An impressive scene in the latter part of this first installment, between Gollum and Bilbo Baggins, supplies the dramatic stuff that I expect of such a saga – which goes to show that Mr Jackson is still capable of being a good director of drama… when he isn’t being distracted by his special effects toybox.