Jul 16, 2014

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I still remember the day I went to go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. The power went out and everything went black in the cinema, robbing me of the last 25 minutes of the movie. Man was I disappointed. At least there was that employee by the emergency exit handing everyone out free passes to another movie but still. I'm a stickler when it comes to finishing movies so I dragged my girlfriend to go see RotPotA again to see the conclusion as well as give Cineplex just a little more popcorn profit.

It was definitely worth it because Rise was definitely better than expected. My major problem with RotPofA is the cardboardness of human characters compared to the apes. It was still very solid and a worthy entry in the Planet of the Apes series. I was a bit concerned during the preproduction of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because Rupert Wyatt wasn't coming back and neither was anyone else really besides Andy Serkis.  Matt Reeves was also a bit of an unknown to me besides having done Cloverfield.

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Genre: action, drama, sci-fi
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, etc
Written by:  Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Running time: 131 minutes
Production company: Chernin Entertainment, Ingenious Media, TSG Entertainment
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $170,000,000
Box office: $708,835,589 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, Jon Eyez, Enrique Murciano, Larramie Doc Shaw, Lee Ross

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Synopsis

 

It's 2016 and the ALZ-113 virus has killed off a lot of the world's human population. Governments don't exist anymore and to Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his colony of apes, humans might as well be completely extinct. No biggie, this allows them the freedom to grow as a species and live peacefully. One day however, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Ash (Doc Shaw) stumble upon Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his small team on their way to restore power to a hydroelectric dam for their human colony in the ruins of San Francisco. Ash is shot in the altercation, which catches the attention of all the male apes. Caesar orders the humans away from their colony. So begins a very tense relationship between the apes and humans who really need to get that dam up and running before they run out of fuel.

Review

 

What I'll say right away in regards to my criticism of Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that Dawn has more than corrected the situation. Malcolm's story and his situation is extremely interesting and didn't make me miss just watching Andy Serkis being an ape. Malcolm is mirrored in Caesar in terms of how they both have family and they both want to keep them safe. There's some real gravity in performances of all the human characters and it's a welcome improvement. They're not cardboard and you care about their well being. One thing I also find is that the story is good at making humans seem so fragile and weak which is freaky I think for all of us. What are we without our electricity, our weapons, the clothes on our backs? I shudder to think.

Watching Andy Serkis and his fellow apes is just as mesmerizing in Dawn, if not more than before. It goes without saying that the effects are fantastic and the apes look so real. Human characters interact with the apes correctly and not like they're trying to look at something that's not really there. There are actually some really touching moments that bring some good drama into the mix and are totally convincing. Dawn is so far from being a run-of-the-mill summer CGI bonanza, that's for sure.

I definitely loved the story through and through. There's tons of tension and it's able to get by on little dialogue from the apes side of the equation. Action is well controlled and fun to watch as well. I also liked how it dealt with the antagonists. (Spoilers) Koba, who returns from Rise, hates humans and for good reason. His motivations are well explained and I wasn't willing to write Koba off until it was too late. Full credit to the writers for that. He's chilling to watch as time goes on and Toby Kebbell will probably never get as much credit as he deserves since most of it will go to Serkis. You also understand Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) just doing what he thinks he's right. He's not as villainy as Koba is but he definitely falls on the wrong side of the track unfortunately. (End Spoilers)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great step up from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. One thing I loved is that there's a nice little shout out to the scarecrows in the original Planet of the Apes as well as some accompanying creepy music courtesy of  Michael Giacchino that elicits Jerry Goldsmith's score a bit. Dawn has the perfect mix of action and drama along with a thrilling story that doesn't let up. There isn't a single boring moment and the motion capture performances are wonderful. I'm really glad to hear that Matt Reeves will be back for the next installment of Planet of the Apes and here's to hoping that at least some of the magic of Dawn can be recaptured.

Rating


8/10