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July 14, 2014

RE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Great.  Here we go again.

All right.  If you want to know what I think of this movie right off the bat, then let me tell you a quick story.  On the way back from the theater -- incidentally, following a trip to the theater where my buddy played music from the Donkey Kong Country games -- my friends asked me what I thought of the movie, as if expecting me to dump hate on it.  I guess that’s kind of the niche I put myself in by way of not liking things like The Wolverine, Man of Steel, The Last of Us, and more.  So I decided to tell them exactly what I had on my mind.  To wit:

“I want to start by saying that a monkey riding a horse while dual-wielding machine guns has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.  THAT SAID, I enjoyed this movie immensely.”

I think their takeaway was that I didn’t use the term “dualies”, and thus didn’t know what it meant.

This movie has no right to be as good as it is.  I went in with reservations, but set them aside based on good word and good faith.  And while apes using guns and riding horses and more is still nigh-impossible for me to take seriously (by which I mean completely impossible), it’s more than possible for me to look past that.  Why?  Because that’s not the focal point of the movie.  Not in the slightest -- and the stuff that goes on between all the monkey shines is what makes it irresponsibly fantastic.  It puts plenty of movies, games, and stories in general to shame.

What do I mean?  Well, I’ll explain it to you.  Eventually.

To be honest, though, I’m kind of dreading going through this again.  There’s an argument to be made (by me) that the reason there haven’t been as many movie-based posts here on Cross-Up is because they pretty much require me to distort my schedule to squeeze one in.  So that nice little backlog of pre-written posts I’ve got?  The ones set to buy time so I can work on -- and finish -- Dead on Prime?  NAH, MAN.  DROP EVERYTHING AND WRITE ABOUT APES.

Cripes.  I hate my brain sometimes.

I guess you can look forward to a post on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (man, that’s a clumsy-ass title) in the coming days, while it’s still relevant.  I don’t know how long it’ll turn out in the end, but I’m hoping I can blast through it as fast as I can to get back to the stuff that really matters to me; as I’ve said, novels don’t write themselves.  In the meantime, though, I want to use the rest of this post to say a couple of things that have been on my mind.  So let’s do this lickety-split, all right? 

Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers.  I’ll probably have to get into them next time (to what extent, I don’t know), but for now all I’ll say is that it’s good and I liked it.  There.  No spoilers.  Except for this one.

Ha.  Visual pun.

1) I don’t know about you, but I think the promos for this movie were worthless.  I thought the point of those -- and trailers, by extension -- were to get the audience hyped and in movie seats.  But the sight of some ape action didn’t do anything for me; again, everything else did.  I know that the promos and such have to hook potential audience members, but Dawn is VERY HEAVILY skewed toward drama instead of action.  I understand why they played out the way they did, but it threatens to smack of a lack of confidence in the final product.  And beyond that, it doesn’t say good things about audience expectations and assumptions about them when the only way to appeal is with summer blockbuster action.

2) I’ll get into this later, but the reason why this movie works as well as it does isn’t necessarily because of what it does (to an extent), but what it doesn’t do -- to the point where I’d say the movie could have charitably been called But They Didn’t.  There could have been so many shortcuts and shorthand to try and get their main idea across -- or sped things up to get to the action audiences expect at this point -- but these guys put in the work to say something more poignant than just squeezing in “damn dirty apes”.  To put it a different way: you know how I’m always clamoring for a story that’s “dark done right” in a cultural climate obsessed with making everything dark and gritty and serious without understanding how or why those stories work in the first place?  Well, THIS is the counterargument. 


3) I’m debating whether or not to name this as “the best movie I’ve seen this year” -- which is admittedly some slim pickings for one reason or another -- or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It’s a legitimately difficult struggle.  Dawn is a movie that feeds your mind, but Cap is a movie that feeds your soul.  There is overlap, obviously, but the two are from different worlds, and the question therein is which one manages to be more worthwhile.  Does Cap lose out even though it’s supremely well-executed, simply because it’s stuck -- or crippled -- by the framework of a superhero movie?  Does Dawn lose out because despite its overwhelming intelligence, it can’t compare to the dizzying heights and “hell yeah” spirit of a straight action movie? 

I’m about ready to just give both the crown -- even if it is the ultimate cop-out -- but we’ll just have to see how it goes.  After all, there’s still at least one new warrior that has to enter the ring.

Great.  Now I’m gonna have to do a post on that.  It’s times like this where I wish I had a clone.

Well, that’s about where I stand.  So I guess I’ll see you guys soon.  By then, hopefully there’ll be a post or two on the movie that’ll give a solid rundown -- and by extension, show what it takes to give a story some real juice.

So that’ll do it for now.  Check back soon.  Because SOMEBODY in this movie gets to use a rocket launcher.  Who is it?  Only one way to find out…you know, unless you see the movie for yourself.

Doing that would be a pretty good idea.

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