Going into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I had pretty high hopes. I had watched Rise the night before, and I was in the mood to see where Matt Reeves would take over in direction, compared to Rupert Wyatt. I had skimmed some reviews as well, and with a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I pretty much knew I would be in for a good time. Yet, what happened for the next 2 hours and 5 minutes, I was not prepared for. What I witnessed was by far one of the best films of the year, and possibly the best Apes movie in the series.
Dawn is anything but your typical Hollywood Blockbuster. I’m okay with a film where I can turn off my brain and just watch the action fly like Transformers. I get that going in I’m not getting high art, especially from Ehren Kruger; but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes the typical and turns it on its head. This film has heart, action, politics and a very realistic look at the human race; though most of the stars are simians.
The film starts off on Caesar’s eyes, and him leading his fellow Apes on a hunting expedition. It’s been ten years, and he has one son with another on the way. You can tell that he’s grown into his role as a leader and with the help of Maurice, he has helped teach everyone to communicate through sign language. They have also created a society where younger apes learn to read, write, and follow their #1 Commandment: Apes Not Kill Ape.
Without giving too much away, they are forced to interact with the Humans they’ve long thought had died off from the Simian Flu. Most of the Apes follow Caesar and go along with this partnership, but his First Lieutenant, Koba, isn’t as trusting of the Humans as Caesar. What ensues between the Humans and the Apes lays the groundwork for an inevitable war that we will probably see in a sequel.
Given that Humans and Apes are not genetically too far apart, it’s no wonder that they act very similar. What’s sad, is that in the first film, you were on the side of the Apes. Dawn makes those lines very blurry, and you really don’t know whose right and whose wrong throughout the movie. There were many times throughout that I asked myself, like Caesar, who is right? Ape or Human?
Matt Reeves seamlessly took over the film as director, painting the landscapes in rain and ruin. If you’ve ever played The Last of Us, you get the idea of a dystopian world where plants have overgrown the cities. The score by Michael Giacchino is a thing of wonder, as he takes the themes of Rise and the original Planet of the Apes; and makes a score that is as somber as it is frenetic.
Finally, the Apes. WETA has outdone themselves in the film. There were many times where I wasn’t sure if it was CGI or if they used an animatronics puppet. It was shocking just how amazing it was. Of course, WETA had brilliant actors pulling off the Simian roles, making their work slightly easier with the facial expressions and Humans in motion capture suits truly embodying the role of Apes.
- Andy Serkis back as Caesar. I stopped watching the Oscars when they snubbed Serkis getting a nomination for Gollum, and I’m hoping that things have changed enough that he at least gets nominated for his portrayal of Caesar. This guy IS the movie.
- WETA because just as important as Serkis is to the role, all of his fantastic acting is brought together by their amazing Visuals. The apes spent a lot of time wet, and the realistic look of wet hair on them was something to behold.
- Michael Giacchino‘s score, which hearkens back to the original Planet of the Apes. Brilliance.
I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 5 outta 5 stars. I left the theater immediately wanting to see the film again and can’t wait to see where they take this franchise. The film ends as it begins, on Caesar’s eyes. He has transitioned from leader to an almost-Messiah. Knowing that they consider him their God, it’ll be great to see how that develops further. Dawn is the kind of film you will leave talking about with your friends, and truly asking yourself what it means to be a Human Being; and just how far have we really come from our Simian counterparts.