Leading up to the 2011 release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, many people assumed that the movie would lead right into the original Planet of the Apes. In fact, as many people watched the movie and saw various references to the original story (the astronaut launching into space) that assumption remained intact. However, when the credits rolled, it was clear that the movie would not lead directly into the original, but instead leave plenty of room for another film, if not two or three more.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the second movie in the new Apes series, and it too leaves plenty of room for at least one more movie before we get to the story and timeframe of the original Planet of the Apes. For fans of Rise, this is a very different movie. The human cast is completely new, but many of the apes from Rise are back. Caesar is still the leader of the apes, but 10 years have passed since the events of the previous film.
When we first see Caesar, it’s clear that he has matured as a leader during these past 10 years. Humans haven’t been spotted in two years and the apes assume they’re alone on the planet now. However, a chance encounter leads to a heated confrontation between the two races, and tensions continue to build from there.
Andy Serkis plays an incredible Caesar. He has all the emotion and critical thinking you saw in the previous film, but now he’s a leader, with a family. His people are counting on his leadership to continue their civilization. There’s a lot more on Caesar’s mind in this movie and you see it in his expressions, his body language, and even when he speaks. There’s strength in his voice, but sometimes that strength is replaced by desperation, or even terror.
The humans played their role in the film, and many of the thespians played their individual roles to a tee. Jason Clarke’s Malcolm is a bit dry with his delivery, but as the main protagonist on the human’s side, he portrays the part well-enough. Gary Oldman steals the show for the humans as Dreyfus, the leader of the main group of humans in the film. The rest of the human actors and actresses don’t have large roles, but they each add their own passion to the overall film even if they’re a bit forgettable.
Unlike Transformers, in which the audience clamors to see more robots and less humans, but never get that request, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does it right. You see far more of the apes than you do of the humans. This is a story about Caesar and his leadership of the apes, not about the remaining humans on the planet. The humans play a big role in the film, but they are not the focal point. There are good apes and bad apes, just like there are good humans and bad humans, but throughout the film you’re invested in the apes far more than the humans.
When it comes to a movie like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the special effects are almost as important as the acting. The motion capture is spot on as you can clearly see the apes evolving from walking on all-fours to walking more and more on two legs. The budget for Dawn is reported to be $170 million, but you’d almost expect it to be significantly higher given the sheer magnitude of the effects. Almost every scene in the film features a multitude of apes moving around and interacting with one another. When you compare this to Transformers: Age of Extinction, with a budget of $210 million, it makes you wonder if WETA has surpassed ILM for the top effects company in modern movies (or perhaps they just charge less).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes clocks in at just over two hours (130 minutes), and while it’s not all action, it never feels as though the movie drags along. Everything moves at a steady pace, as the tension between the apes and humans builds. There are moments that make you jump, and there are moments that make you gasp in terror as you see how the humans and apes interact. It’s hard to say anything bad about the film aside from a few humans that you don’t really care about much, and the stiffness of Jason Clarke. If you enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this is a superior film and a must-see. Even if you didn’t like Rise, this is a different film and one that you should still absolutely see.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:[usr 4.25]
About Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Synopsis: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Runtime: 130 Minutes