Saturday, July 19, 2014

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

Movie"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
Director: Matt Reeves
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Image Source
The ALZ-113 drug developed by GynSys pharmaceuticals has created a virus that has wiped out the majority of the human race. In-fighting and war has helped wipe out even more people. Meanwhile, Caesar (Andy Serkis) has led his freed chimps to building a new society in the forests outside of San Francisco. They have been living peacefully for many years and believe that humans have become extinct. One day while hunting in the forest, two young chimps named Blue Eyes and Ash come across a group of humans. One of the men shoots Ash, which brings Caesar and his army of apes to their defense. Caesar warns the humans to keep away from the forest and tells them to leave the apes alone. A man named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) tries to make peace with the apes and explains that they just want to reactivate the hydro-electric plant located in the forest. This does not sit well with Koba (Toby Kebbell), a former lab ape who was experimented on by humans and has a deep hatred for them, who thinks they should attack and kill the humans while they have a chance.   Humans don't think much differently than Koba. While Malcolm is trying make peace with the apes, the "leader" of the remaining humans in San Francisco, Dreyfuss (Gary Oldman), is stockpiling weapons from a National Guard armory. Malcolm and Caesar must help them come to an understanding before all out war breaks out between humans and apes. 


This is one of the rare instances where a sequel far surpasses its predecessor. As much as we liked "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," this film tops it. It follows in the footsteps of  "Rise," picking up where it left off with a more advanced and organized ape society in the woods outside of what used to be San Francisco. Caesar has lived up to his name (SEE WHAT WE DID THERE???) and has become ruler of the ape kingdom where they dwell. Their society is an intricate one and revolves around the idea of being one big family. They live by the notion of not killing other apes as humans have killed humans in centuries past. This is one of the core concepts of the film, and we see this mirrored in the remaining human colony just over the bridge as they try to rebuild civilization. It also delves into the idea of fearing what we don't understand, as well as hating an entire group of individuals based on the actions of a few. We see this reflected in Koba because he hates all humans due to his past experiences as a lab ape, and we also see a hatred of all apes (even the cute little baby!!!) by Carver (Kirk Acevedo) on the human's side. Neither of these characters are willing to change their views, and it is this mindset that drives conflict to the point of violence. This creates a feeling of extreme tension and intensity between the groups, and it feels like, at any minute, the wrong thing could be said on either side that could lead to an all-out war between the "races." Their tension becomes our tension as viewers, and I felt like I was on the edge of my seat through 90% of the movie.

Everything good that the first film did, this sequel seems to do better. This film steps up the action by a lot. The opening sequence is a hunting scene with the apes scavenging for food, and the tight, close-up shot of Caesar's face in war paint sets the tone for the entire movie. Plus, for a majority of the movie, THE APES RIDE ON FREAKIN' HORSES. WHAT!?!?!?!?!? The CGI, though done well in the first movie, seems much more crisp and enhanced in this sequel. Caesar, whose role is reprised by the brilliant and wonderful Andy Serkis, conveys so much emotion without even moving a finger. His eyes are what matter here, his eyes tell the story. The director, Matt Reeves, intentionally focused on Caesar's eyes throughout the movie, as if to show that's where his power lies. As in the first film, Maurice the orangutan is still one of the best CGI'ed animals in the entire movie. We questioned whether or not he was a CGI creature or a real animal throughout the film. The MoCap actors deserve so much credit because they are what gives this movie its human-like realness and give the chimps anthropomorphic qualities. The digital performances far outshine their human counterparts once again. This is not to say that the actors don't do a great job in their roles, but you really can't deny the power of the MoCap actors in these films.

In fact, Matt Reeves did a superb job all around. This might even be the "Empire Strikes Back" of the new Planet of the Apes series. His direction almost gave us a better appreciation for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." You can see where that film was trying to go as far as setting up characters and situations that would inevitably support this sequel. Moreover, we see where this film is going to go to set up the impending third edition in the series. Reeves also brings an impressive arsenal of camerawork and brilliant pacing to this movie as well.

Though it is unlikely, we'd love to see Serkis get nominated for the role of Caesar. Lord knows he certainly deserves it. There's no denying the power of his emoting skills. It would be a travesty if he's acknowledged at least once in his career for an Academy Award. Someone needs to get on with changing the stuffy old-school rules of the Oscars and give this guy his due. All in all, this is a superb, fantastic sequel that will leave you engaged, enthralled, and a little bit scared for our future. It boasts a grim, bleak look at what humans have essentially done to themselves to become their own downfall. With wonderful and crisp CGI, a fantastic script, excellent direction, and good pacing, this movie is on track to be one of the best of the year. It's certainly at the top of our lists already.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!


  1. Hurray! I was worried it would be just another almost-as-good sequel. Dawn is now officially on my list to see in theaters =)

    1. Hey there! I really hope you get to see this in the theater, it's so worth it for the CGI and all around experience. It's a fantastic sequel!