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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B+

It's rare that any sequel improves upon its predecessor, let alone a sequel to a reboot/prequel coming after a remake. Rise of the Planet of the Apes pulls it off, although I have just one major complaint: the last movie, in which the apes first gain their higher intelligence, was called Rise of the Planet of the Apes; and this one, in which a battle with humans suggests the apes taking over the world, is called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Shouldn't those titles have been switched around? That would have made a lot more sense.

But, there was a fair amount of Rise that didn't make sense -- but, amazingly, Dawn is far more cohesive. It has a well-paced story that never gets ahead of itself or relies to heavily on action or special effects. It even has some genuinely innovative cinematography to boot; in one wonderful sequence, a lot of action occurs in the background as the camera follows the roof of a moving tank.

There's a lot of CGI in this movie. I was quite surprised by how enjoyable the movie was, although I would still insist forking over the premium price for 3D tickets would be pointless. There's no need for this movie to be in 3D. Even in 2D, the effects are impressive; Andy Serkis returns as the motion-capture Caesar, now leading a large pack of intelligent apes in the woods, and although they do all still register as CGI renderings, the hundreds of other apes are still impressively rendered.

Unlike the last movie, though, the telling of this story transcends the absolute ridiculousness of the concept. It's been ten years since the previous film, and presumably Will Rodman is one of the majority of humans who perished from the Simian Flu, as James Franco only appears here in a brief home video clip. Now, the apes have formed their own society, and even culture (many subtle references to which are a nice touch), living in the forest outside San Francisco. The film opens with a great sequence involving the apes hunting deer, underscoring their lives lived without much regard to humans. In fact, the are presuming the humans may now be extinct.

Until a small group of people happens upon them in the woods, and a particularly nervous one of them shoots one of the many apes that come to confront them. This sets up the tension between apes and humans, as the apes also have Koba (played via motion capture by Christopher Gordon), who has his own inherent mistrust of humans.

Several direct references are peppered in the script to the history of human experimentation on apes, giving this movie a subtly provocative subtext without ever getting particularly preachy. It's hard not to feel like the apes can't be blamed for any mistrust of humans. Only Caesar, as the level-headed (if intimidating) leader, understands the need to be diplomatic if he wants to keep as many of the apes alive as possible. It's Koba who goes renegade and fucks everything up for everybody.

The human characters are engaging, if incidental. Gary Oldman has a supporting role as a sort of elder/leader among the human survivors still within the city of San Francisco, but, as great an actor as he is, not even he can make the same kind of impression as the ape characters. There is far more focus on the ape characters this time around, making the humans supporting characters in their story -- one of the many things that make this movie great, and different, entertainment. In the rebooted version of the Planet of the Apes franchise, we gain a deeper understanding of the apes' perspective, and it's better for it.

Given its setting so much time later, there's really no need even to have seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes in order to enjoy this one. In fact, if you haven't seen the previous film, I wouldn't even tell you to bother. It was entertaining but far from essential viewing. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes achieves something far closer to that goal, with gripping action sequences shot in innovative ways, and a well-polished story. From beginning to end, this is popcorn entertainment at its best.

Andy Serkis gives Caesar personality in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Overall: B+
3 comments or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: July 14th, 2014 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Sounds similar to the last one then. I'm glad the bits with just the apes are still impressive, because the bit where it became mainly apes in the last film was clearly the best part.

Are you a fan of the original Planet of the Apes movie series?
cinema_holic From: cinema_holic Date: July 14th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Similar to the last one broadly speaking, yes, but different in that there is far more focus on the simian characters -- this time, it is much more the apes' story than it is the humans', which makes it better in my opinion.

I had not ever even seen the original Planet of the Apes until two years ago, and I was surprised by how good it actually was. I never did bother watching any of its sequels.

fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: July 14th, 2014 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
My absolute favourite was "Escape From The Planet of the Apes". It's also well worth watching "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes".

"Beneath The Planet of the Apes" shows us that some of the humans in the future CAN still talk and there's some rather interesting concepts on what's become of them. Though the film is an utter mess.

"Battle of the Planet of the Apes" is only worth watching for completion's sake.

Tim Burton's version of "Planet of the Apes" is not worth the bother.
3 comments or Leave a comment