Jason Clarke

Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

By the time we arrive at the third installment of a trilogy, I usually think the whole concept has “jumped the shark.” I found 2001’s reboot of Planet of the Apes supremely underwhelming, failing to live up to the intriguing, subtle social commentary of the Charlton Heston (The Order) original. I don’t think it was a hit with audiences either, and maybe that’s why it was ten years before someone thought to make a sequel, giving us 2011’s effective installment featuring James Franco (This Is the End). The trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes promised a shift in storytelling, and since the second edition was entertaining, I was fairly optimistic.

Dawn opens in a post apocalyptic future, where a simian flu has ravaged the planet. Juxtaposed with this doomsday scenario is a bleak forecast whereby apes have evolved higher than what could’ve been imagined – thanks to man’s insatiable need to take technology past its moral end. Years of primate experiments have created a highly intelligent species of ape. The dwindling human population coupled with the rise of the apes has shifted the balance of power between species, with humans trying to restore the power grid after most of the world has been wiped out. A sizable community of apes have established themselves in the outskirts of San Francisco, living perhaps as early humans once did.

Their establishment of a moral code evinces their keen intelligence, serving as a fascinating sociological exercise in evolution and development. We met Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) in the last Apes movie, and he is featured again in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as the unquestionable leader of his tribe. He is everything one would desire in a leader, human or otherwise. He is patient, slow to anger, and governed by a sense of right and wrong. When a small band of human survivors surprisingly confronts the apes, Caesar reacts with prudence rather than fear. This puts him at odds with the other apes, namely best friend and secret nemesis Koba (Tony Kebbell, The Counselor), an ape that lacks Caesar’s favorable impression of mankind.

Circumstances dictate that humans and apes collide when it becomes clear that man needs the resources of Caesar’s territory to ensure its survival. Thus the stage is set for a standoff of Darwinian proportions. Malcolm (Jason Clarke, White House Down) compassionately leads the human explorers, but he answers to Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises) who is much more skeptical about the possibility of striking a peaceful understanding with the apes. With a nod to the jingoism and xenophobia of the current climate, the film depicts the fear we as humans (read: Americans) harbor toward those that are different from us.

While the movie was somewhat predictable in its story arc, I appreciated the parallel between Caesar and Shakespeare’s Caesar, as well as the humanization of these computer-generated characters. There was obviously a conscious shift in storytelling to feature the perspective of the apes more centrally, foregoing the human outlook and aligning the viewer with Caesar from the outset. Who can deny man’s incessant need to assert his dominance over others? History alone has taught us this. I found Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to be vastly entertaining, and in a sea of heretofore summer mediocrity, it stands out as worthwhile summertime fare – at least for now. Grade: B+

This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.



Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight) has recently emerged as the latest “it” guy in Hollywood.  I first viewed him in Guy Ritchie’s gangster drama RocknRolla, and although I found him charming in his supporting role, I was unaware there was such underlying talent.  He’s gone on to star alongside some notable names, and that trend will probably only continue in the future.   His role in the The Dark Knight Rises as super villain Bane cemented his movie star status, and he’s one to watch for me.

Lawless is based on the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers, as told in the novel The Wettest County in the World, written by one of the Bondurant descendants.  The brothers were bootleggers in Prohibition Era Virginia, proving to be murderously resilient and nearly indestructible.  Forrest (Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are the two eldest brothers, fearless and violent.  Jack (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon) is the youngest boy and more naïve to the ways of the bootlegging world.  He is sensitive and green to the criminal lifestyle, though he is anxious to earn more responsibility from his brothers in their enterprise.  His days are spent pining away for the local minister’s daughter, played with youthful innocence by Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right).  A lot of people think Shia is overrated, but I think he does a good job as the well-meaning kid who is in over his head.  It’s a common refrain in his roles, and I think his characters are mostly endearing and relatable.  However, since he conveys the same sentiment in most of his roles – if you disliked him in one you probably disliked him in nearly all of his movies.

Things are rolling along relatively smoothly for the Bondurant Boys, until they run up against a thorny roadblock.  There’s a new sheriff in town (Guy Pearce, Lockout), and he upsets the apple cart by trying to shake them down.  When they refuse to be muscled, the Deputy retaliates against the weakest of the tribe, Jack.  Forrest in particular is not to be trifled with, as the legend of his immortality is so great that he actually believes it himself.  He has survived beatings and several nearly fatal incidents that have convinced the locals that he can’t be killed.  Deputy Rakes wouldn’t dare screw with Forrest just yet, but wants to send a message that he intends to go toe to toe over the spoils of his illegal activity.  Lawless is largely a vehicle for Hardy, and it’s almost like ‘badass’ is in his DNA.  This makes three movies where his character is simply one that is NOT to be fucked with (the first two are Bronson and TDKR if you were wondering).  Despite the aforementioned quality, there is evidence of a softer side, as he ultimately becomes involved with a young woman named Maggie who comes to work for them (Jessica Chastain, The Help).  Forrest is not violent for violence’s sake, but he has no qualms about defending himself by any means necessary.   Maggie appreciates the rugged simplicity that marks his personality, but also reveals a more compassionate side of Forrest.  He is so gentle with her that she even has to make all the moves the first time they sleep together, and his manner with her is sweet without contradicting his ruthless ambition.

Lawless was very entertaining throughout, and it’s pretty awesome that it’s based on a true story.  The story of the Bondurants was ripe for re-telling, though I’ve heard that some of the surviving family members aren’t too happy with their family’s portrayal.  At any rate, Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf gave very solid performances, bolstered by strong supporting turns by Waskikowska and Chastain.  Young actor Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) also gave a strong turn as Jack’s best friend Cricket, who becomes caught up in the war between Rakes and the Bondurants.  In short, Tom Hardy’s on a roll, and Lawless is one to see.  Grade: A