Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russel and Gary Oldman
In a summer with giant fighting toy robots, super-powered mutants and fire-breathing, monster lizards, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” provides a nice change of pace for those seeking more depth out of their blockbusters.
Fear not, of course, the sequel to 2011’s popular “Rise of the Planet Apes” is not without its thrills and it has plenty of them.
But it’s nice that for a change audiences are being treated to a summer movie that cares about its plot and characters as much as it does its expensive special effects and explosions.
(Looking at you Mr. Bay…)
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” continues not long after the events of the first film, as the simian flu has wiped out most of the Earth leaving only one in 500 people still alive.
Caesar is now the leader of a large tribe of smart apes and looks to establish a harmonious community free from humanity.
But when a small band of humans led by a man named Malcom (Jason Clarke) stumble upon their camp looking for the dam that will help repower their colony, Caesar decides to help them much to chagrin of his second in command Koba who does not trust the humans.
The term smart blockbuster almost diminishes the quality of a stellar picture such as this one.
“Dawn of the Planet of Apes” is so much more than just a great summer movie; it’s a tremendously good story too.
The film takes a decent amount of time to develop the characters and plot and the film is better for it.
In fact, the movie is at its best when we are focused solely on Caesar and how he handles and interprets events around him.
Director Matt Reeves and his team of writers do a great job of developing Caesar and growing him into a larger than life character.
Caesar’s growth from his humble origins in the first movie to leader of the apes in this film is executed beautifully and it shows that as this series evolves so will Caesar.
(All aboard the feels train…)
This is thanks, in no small part, to Andy Serkis of course whose masterful motion capture skills are once again on full display on screen.
In fact all the apes feel and look real and it’s hard not to be amazed at the jaw-dropping detail done on each one in the film.
Serkis’s voice work with Caesar is also done extremely well and we feel much of the raw emotion of the character throughout the story.
Of course, some of you action junkies are probably wondering if the film delivers in the action department and the answer is yes.
(Guns don’t kill people…APES with guns kill people!)
While the film doesn’t get to the action until the last third of the movie, there’s plenty of it and it will keep you on edge of your seat throughout the finale of the film.
Of course this movie does have a few minor weak points.
For all the focus on Caesar and the apes, very little is given to the humans.
This is not a huge problem of course, as the movie is about Caesar and not the humans, but we really don’t get to see or understand much about them and how society unraveled so badly during the epidemic.
For a story like this it just needed to be shown not told but it still feels as if we’re missing out on another bigger story in the movie.
Gary Oldman’s character, especially considering his talent, feels underutilized as the leader of the last pocket of humans in San Francisco.
Clearly, as we watch the film, there is more to this character than the movie is showing and it’s sad that there isn’t more scenes with him.
Of course, these are once again minor issues that don’t mire the whole.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a stunning movie on both a visual and thematic level that fans of smart science fiction will definitely appreciate.
It’s amazing how after forty one years “Planet of the Apes” is not only still alive and well, it’s thriving in today’s film landscape.
Not many of us thought “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” would be the beginning of a new franchise but Reeves proved us all wrong.
I guess he finally made a monkey out of all us.
Here’s to seeing Dr. Zaius in the sequel!
Rating: 4.5 out 5
There, got in my Simpsons reference of the day…