‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Review

20
Jul
2014

 

July 11th was the opening of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“, which was the sequel to the 2011 reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes“. The James Franco led film was the slow telling of one man’s desire to make his pet chimpanzee as intelligent as possible, by using chemicals used for curing alzheimers on him. The chimp gets more and more intelligent, and grows fond of his friend and owner, which leads to a built-in affection for humans. Throughout the film however, the affection gets tested by the constant negative interactions with other humans. Eventually the chimp uses the drug to make other apes more intelligent as well, which leads to a full on monkey revolt. The first film was more of a drama with some action thrown in the end. It was a good example of proper story telling and was a solid way to set up the franchise.

The second Apes film took the setup of the first and went full throttle with it. The film is intense throughout and mixes action with drama almost seamlessly. The continued story-line of apes getting by in a human run world is flipped on it’s head when most humans are wiped out by a disease created in the first film. The apes who escaped from habitation in the first film have set up a nice home for themselves in the forests near San Francisco. They have built houses, they have organized hunts for food, and even have a school set up for the young chimps. The main ape from the first film, Caesar (Andy Serkis from the LoTR Trilogy), is the leader of the ape tribe. He has a wife, son, and another child on the way. Things are looking up for the apes who havent had to deal with humans for nearly 10 years. That is until some humans show up, and everything goes downhill.

Turns out the humans have made a new home for themselves as well, in the broken down buildings of San Francisco. The humans are struggling to get by, though. They are running out of power to fuel their city, since they want to hold onto the old ways before the disease wiped out a huge part of the population. Problem is that the power they need comes from a dam located deep in ape territory. This leads to a lingering conflict between both sides. Both the humans and the apes have someone who wants to work peacefully with the other species. The apes have Caesar, who despite problems with humans before, still trusts them based on what his former owner did for him. On the human side it’s Malcolm (Jason Clark of Zero Dark Thirty), who knows how to get fuel for the city, but also wants to make peace. But both sides also have their stubborn detractors. For the humans it’s Dreyfus (Gary Oldman of The Dark Knight Trilogy) who has lost his whole family due to the disease, and is willing to fight the apes if necessary. For the chimps it’s Koba (Toby Kebbell, Prince of Persia and the upcoming Fantastic Four) from the first film, who was abused constantly by his human captors. Things go well for a bit, as Caesar and Malcolm seem to connect on a intellectual and emotional level. As you can guess, however, everything goes south after awhile.

This film has a lot going for it, and could be the sleeper choice for best film of the summer (I still have really high hopes for Guardians of the Galaxy). The CGI effects for the Apes are phenomenal, especially shown off by close ups of Caesar’s face. The storytelling was even better. The shift of power that goes from the humans to the apes is truly fascinating. The symbolism of the humans wanting power back both literally and figuratively is also well done throughout the film. The humans refuse to adapt to the new world, while the apes thrive in it.

This film is heart-breaking, exciting, intense, dramatic, jaw-dropping, and features some well done twists. The acting isn’t perfect, but it’s solid and still lends to the overall quality of the film. Andy Serkis does another excellent job as Caesar, and it may rival his performance as Gollum as one of his best.

There are only a few flaws that I found with the movie. First, the whole “disease wiping out a majority of the human race but some people survived just because” thing seemed to be rushed and just a convenient way to explain the death of billions of people. It didn’t bother me as much as it did in the first film where they threw it into the end credits, because this time around there was a little more substance. It still felt though like it was glossed over, but I understand why. The second is a bit nitpicky, but damn it all if I didn’t want me some more Gary Oldman in the movie. When I first saw the trailer, I figured he was the main human character. Instead we don’t get a lot of the Oldman throughout the film. It felt a lot like the amount of Bryan Cranston there was in Godzilla, which was not enough.

Overall this is an excellent film and I highly recommend it. If you haven’t seen the first one, give it a view first for some context. It’s important to see Caesar’s upbringing to appreciate the struggles he has over accepting humans back into his life in the second film. This one is definitely worth the 11 bucks. Don’t give it to Michael Bay!

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4.5 stars
  • Outstanding

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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  • Last modified: July 20, 2014

Review Summary:

The Sequel to the Reboot! More Apes! More Fun!

Pros

Great Story-telling. Great Effects. Andy Serkis is brilliant.

Cons

Not enough Gary Oldman. Some cheesy acting.