Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) REVIEW
Director: Matt Reeves
Written By: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Toby Kebbell
MILD PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD.
Plot: Taking place ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and his expanding nation of Apes have taken refuge in the Muir Woods just outside of San Francisco City. When a small group of humans show up hoping to restore power to the city via the use of a hydroelectric generator, tension is had and Caesar, with the upper hand, forbids the humans from entering the area ever again. However with the dam generator being the only hope for survival the humans have, Malcolm and his group re-enter the woods in the hopes of convincing Caesar they aren’t all bad and can be trusted. Soon, plotting begins on both ends to reclaim the lands and the war between humans and apes is brought to the forefront.
Review: First of all, I beg you, no, I plead with you to please go and watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes before watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t say that often to people, but it really is worth it for all the little minors things. Plus Rise was such a brilliant and unexpected film that deserves repeat viewing just to ease you into Dawn.
So with Dawn, ten winters have passed since the vents of the previous film and Caesar and his nation of Apes have made a life for themselves in the woods. Large areas of forest blanket the entire lands, with tall trees perfect for ‘Ape’ life. Being of genetically enhanced intelligence, the Apes have made homes for themselves and their leader, Caesar, commands them all, not as a tyrant but the wisest of the group.
What I was really surprised about with Dawn was that since the last film, and knowing how the original series of films transpired, I expected to begin this film with Apes and humans at war. Far from it. This film surprised me from beginning to end. I tried my best to guess where the film would go, and little things would throw me off. I peg that down to the trailer playing up on key moments to throw you off.
You see no contact has been had since the bridge attack in Rise, Apes believe humans have been wiped out from the virus created by GENSYS, and Human survivors believe the Apes to be responsible and are nothing but rabid animals. So I was pleasantly excited to find the beginning of the film concentrated on Caesar and his ‘family’ of apes. We are shown how far the Apes have come now with schools for the children and sign language in full use. Once again, it blew me away that Hollywood would allow heavy use of subtitles to appear in a major ‘summer’ movie when people behind the film could’ve just had all Apes suddenly speak to appeal to a wider audience. Some do, but it’s still rare and never overused. Plus with the best CGI I’ve ever seen, I don’t mind subtitles especially when the Apes were so expressive. High five to the CGI department.
The communication system they have adds to the (fading) primitive ways and are shown in full force during a brilliant hunter sequence in the first act. Here we’re introduced to all the main characters and you will have no problem telling them apart thanks to subtle differences in appearances. A smart move. I was never left confused as to who I was watching on screen. Also largely helped by the motion capture performances.
Andy Serkis, is one of the best things about this film. One of. He is hands down the best when it comes to anything motion capture, and his expressive nature shines through in the character. There were many moments when Caesar was quiet and observing and you could see him looking around and I could’ve sworn the director found a real life Ape to preform. Andy Serkis and the CGI team are a brilliant match. Also on equal footing is Toby Kebbell as Koba.
Koba was an absolute scene stealer. A character returning from the first film, Koba is the right hand Ape to Caesar. He was also the result of direct experimentation by GENSYS and harbours a deep hatred against the humans for what was done to him. It is his scenes against Caesar that really bring the dramatic and real life issues to the forefront. I’ve only ever seen Toby Kebbell in a few roles before this, and also thought he him as a decent actor, but as Koba, he steals the film. Although you don’t agree with all his decisions, he can understand them.
On the human side of things are Gary Oldman as Dreyfus. A man who only wants the best for his followers at any cost. Don’t be fooled by the trailers though, it makes him out to be the sole antagonist of Dawn, but in actual fact, its a little more than that. Its another solid Oldman performance, if not a little ‘been there, done that’ mirror parts he played before. Also we have Jason Clarke as Malcolm. He’s a much larger role as the lead male in the film. A good honest performance but sadly nothing that will be remembered. He wasn’t bad, but the Apes just stole the film.
Music wise, Michael Giacchino adds another subtle score to his resume. A few moments in the film reminded me of his recent Star Trek soundtracks. I enjoyed what I heard, and will definitely be snapping up the soundtrack upon its release.
Final Thoughts: Highly recommend Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to any and all audience types. I had my expectations high and was not disappointed at any point in this film. It moved along at the perfect pace and didn’t over stay its welcome. Running 2 hours and 10 minutes sounds like a while, but its the perfect length. Any longer or shorter and the movie would feel off. Action and character moments are interspersed with beautiful visuals and music which all adds to one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
This movie pulled at the heart strings a few times leaving me to hold back a few tears. Well worth your time and money. Loved it and will be watching again soon.