Friday, July 18, 2014

Fox Friday: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes & The Fault In Our Stars

A very randomly special Friday here at Dammaged Goods as we look at 3 seemingly sci-fi films that have little to do with one another besides being released by Fox.  First we'll check out #1 flick in America, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the follow up to 2011's quiet yet surprisingly solid reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  In that installment we met ape Caesar who after being injected with a test drug for Alzheimer's begins to gain super intelligence and leads an uprising.  Taking place 10 years after, Dawn finds us in the remote woods outside San Francisco where Caesar leads a community of intelligent apes in a peaceful existence.  Some humans wander into their territory looking for a dam that is their last hope to generate power and with it, their hopes at rebuilding society after the human created but Simian named epidemic has wiped out much of society.  From there, Caesar clashes with anti-human members of his tribe while assisting the survivors lead by Jason Clarke's Malcolm.  Of course common ground is found as tensions rise and before long it's another ape invasion resulting in Caesar and Malcom needing to work together to restore order.  While the film isn't boring or not enjoyable per se, it just wasn't very engrossing either.  The story beats are very basic and familiar and while the apes f/x looked amazing, I didn't give a crap if the humans lived or died.  While I appreciate films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past and now Apes trying to give audiences a little more story and emotion with their spectacle, it hasn't been wholly successful.  The best example is Cap's very familiar story that basically takes Three Days of the Condor's paranoid and violent government controlling conspiracy themes and adds a whole lot of action and technology without actually addressing or dissecting those issues and questions from 1975.  The worst example is probably Godzilla which relegated the title star to a minor role while we ran around with some very uninteresting characters for 90 minutes.

Another hit for Fox this summer was June's The Fault In Our Stars which cost $12 million yet opened up ahead of Tom Cruise's huge, $178 million sci-fi tentpole Edge of Tomorrow and to date has grossed $25 million more in America.  Worldwide though the action and visuals of Edge have given it a nice $100 million in extra ticket receipts.  Not that they are the same kind of film vying for the same audience, they just both happen to sound like science fiction films when Fault totally isn't.  While Edge was based on a Japanese Manga, Fault's source material is the 6th novel from best-selling author John Green published in 2012.  The story of teenage cancer patients Hazel and Gus, Fault explains to us early on that cancer sucks and the story being told will not be sugar coated.  However the runtime does include plenty of stock moments like the "meet-cute", the playful yet semi-fake sounding banter and a trip to Europe.  The Descendants' Shailene Woodley plays Hazel with humor and quiet grace while Ansel Elgort's Gus is goofy and open since he's survived a bout of the sickness and won't be silenced.  What's interesting is that these two play lovers here but previously acted as brother and sister in Divergent.  There's plenty of heart on display without the drama becoming too leaden or syrupy.  There were many a sniffle in the audience but I managed to keep it together.  I can only imagine that opening weekend with young fans of the book was Niagara Falls all day and night.  While it didn't hit me the chest the way that 50/50 did, Fault was a cute film dealing with serious issues and handled nimbly by director Josh Boone and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.  Oh and Michael Biehn totally should have played someone's dad in the film.  Speaking of the Biehn, on this day in 1986, Fox released James Cameron's sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien, Aliens.  See how this all works?

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