Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NYC DAY 38: In Which I Go To Dunkirk Waging War on Planentary Apes Again

Movie poster for Dunkirk
I went and saw Christopher Nolan's latest movie, Dunkirk, and since I was in the theatre and the opportunity was there, I dropped in to see War For The Planet of The Apes. For the record, Dunkirk was in 70mm, and by and large it wasn't too bad, which I guess is another way of saying it wasn't brilliant either.

The evacuation at Dunkirk on the French coast, of around 300,000 British Expeditionary Forces, as they were called, averted one of the greatest military defeats in British history. Christopher Nolan tries to tell the story of how this 'victory out of defeat' moment was achieved by focusing on three or four groups or individuals; three soldiers waiting on the beach, three Spitfire pilots trying to protect them, and yes, three Englishmen, who set out from their home port in a small cutter as part of the fleet of 'little boats' that helped evacuate tens of thousands of British and French soldiers.

Like several of Christopher Nolan's other films, he plays with time and shifts the action around in ways that were for me initially confusing until I had worked out what he was doing. For example, all the fight scenes with the Spitfire's take place during the day, while many scenes involving sinking ships and other major dramatic moments happen at night. But since the story is being told in a non-linear way, scenes jump constantly from midair daytime dogfights, to nighttime ship sinking's, back to daytime bombings on the beaches, before we are whisked off to the crew on the little boat watching the dogfight overhead between the Spitfire's and the German Messerschmitt kkofighters, which may have happened that day, the day before or the day after! And so it goes on.

The Daily Sketch of June 3, 1940.
My main complaint with the film is that it simple did not conveyed the full extent of what was achieved at Dunkirk. Obviously, Nolan did not have 300,000 extras with which to pack his beach evacuations scenes, but if Peter Jackson could use CGI effects to create thousands of digital extras in his Lord of The Rings trilogy, I don't see why Nolan wasn't able to do the same - unless his budget would not allow for it. I can only assume that budgetary constraints are also to blame for the lack of wrack and ruin one sees in the film.

The opening scene is a perfect example. Three soldiers are running for their lives down a village street as bullets ping and ricochet around them from an enemy we never see. The problem with this scene is that the village street is in pristine condition. There are no broken windows, no bombed out burning buildings with rubble spilling out onto the street, no abandoned military vehicles, no bodies of dead soldiers or civilians. Nothing. Heck, we don't even see pieces of paper lying in the street, despite that fact that moments before, German propaganda leaflets are seen raining down out of the sky.

Ahove: a copy of the leaflets dropped on Britsh forces waiting to be evacuated.
Below: this is what the evacuation of 300,000 men should look like.  

The next major scene reveals lines of soldiers standing on a beach of almost pure white sand, and like the village street, the beach is in almost pristine condition. Again, no abandoned or destroyed military vehicles such as ambulances, trucks, jeeps, field guns, and tanks. No discarded weapons, clothing, or other equipment. Nothing. Just a few thin lines of British troops waiting patiently in the sun for someone to come and rescue them. Again, a lot of the detritus of war could have been added using digital effects, but either Christopher Nolan's budget would not stretch that far, or he didn't think it would matter. Well, I'm sorry Mr. Nolan, but it did matter.

Above and Below: Juat a little of what got left behind at Dunkirk.

Soldiers making their way out to one of the 'little boats' that came to rescue them. 

Thousand of soldiers waiting in line for rescue.
I did a quick Google search for 'images of Dunkirk', and once I ignored those for Nolan's film, there were plenty from the actual wartime event, and I have used a few of those to illustrate this post. If you look at these images and then compare them to what we see (or don't see) in the movie, you will understand my complaint.

These issues aside, the acting from the principle players is good, but don't expect pages of dialogue from these men. They are mostly silent (even in moments of dramatic action), and what little dialogue there is, is mostly of the exposition type. That is, providing background information and context to the whole event.

As I said at the start of my review, the film wasn't too bad, but it could have been a lot better.

Score: 3 Spitfires.

Movie poster for the latest Apes franchise. 
As for War For The Planet of The Apes, the less said about that the better. In a word, it was pap. While I am happy not to have paid to see the film, I can't say I am happy with the two hours out of my life that I will never get back! What a pastiche of genres the film is; part Western, part war film, and part homage to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

You don't believe me? How about graffiti that reads Ape-ocalypse Now! Or Woody Harrelson ripping off of Marlon Brando's mad Colonel Kurtz in Coppola's film, complete with bald head and demented 'I'll do it my way' schtick. Even some of his dialogue mirrored that of Brando's. There were also huge explosive fireballs that referenced the napalm drop in Coppola's film, and the firestorm that ends Apocalypse Now, along with other visual references. If nothing else it made the film much more interesting than it deserved to be. I note too that the hard working Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar the leader of the apes has had enough of all the nonsense, since he gets killed off at the end of the film. Oh, I'm sorry, did I give something important away? Quite frankly, I think you will be just as relieved as Andy Serkis and I was to learn this.

By the way, am I the only person on the planet to notice that all the male apes in these movies are sexless? That is, that they have no reproductive organs or male appendages whatsoever? Maybe they keep them tucked out of the way in a special pocket somewhere. If they don't develop some real cojones soon, the apes (and the movies) will die out -- which can't come soon enough in my option. At least we won't have to sit through this type of nonsense again.

Score: 1 Banana.

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Sunday 23, July | Expenses $31.00 ($39.10)

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