Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place 10 years after the events of the previous film. The simian flu has wiped out much of the Earth’s population. However in the heart of San Francisco lies a small community living in closed quarters who have become immune to the virus but face a significant power crisis. In response, a small team is sent out to the woods just outside San Francisco to restore a broken dam in a last ditch attempt to restore power. However in these woods lies a genetically advanced and thriving ape population led by Caesar who feel threatened by the presence of humans near their property.
In my previous review I clarified that I wanted more out of the post-credits scene of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I stand corrected. This movie has a wonderfully put together opening title sequence where we are immediately brought to speed about the events that occur in between these two movies. This title sequence is artistic and lands some powerful emotional punches about how our civilization collapsed in a matter of just a few years. This really set the stage for the rest of the movie, which has a much darker taste than its predecessor. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a well rounded movie. It doesn’t particularly in lack of its departments but I wouldn’t consider it to be a classic.
Stylistically, Matt Reeves (the director) establishes his unique directorial style from the very get go. The first shot of this movie is a terrifying close-up of Caesar in the jungle who has his “battle-makeup” on. I noticed from the get-go that this movie has a much darker color palette, which complements the darker themes it is attempting to tackle and appropriately sets up a dystopian and post-apocalyptic setting. I was also satisfied to see the depth of creativity involved in showcasing the lifestyle of the ape civilization. We see the hierarchy of leadership, the decision making process as well as the tactical defenses that the apes have in place for foreigners. In addition, this movie features some of the best incorporation of visual effects and CGI into a live action blockbuster. The amount of effort and technicality involved in showing an entire ape civilization on screen for over 120 minutes is nothing short of groundbreaking. Andy Serkis and all the other characters who were involved in mimicking the behavior of apes do a brilliant job once again. The motion capture work significantly out bests the original, which lacked believability in certain instances.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is, like the original, focused on the character of Caesar. My interpretation of his character is that he is all grown up now. He carries the responsibility of looking after his two children and wife whilst commanding his civilization to flourish through maintaining peace. He has a distaste for the violent characteristics of humans but has not totally given up on their race. His relationship with the human race was explored in the films 2nd act through him negotiating with a small band of human survivors on whether or not to allow them to work on the dam near their community.
My only real flaw with this movie is what I mentioned at the beginning of this review: it doesn’t have any elements that make it an instant classic. There was no particular character or action set piece that really impressed me and made me want to like this movie any more than I already did. Kobe, the antagonist, was all rage and nothing much else. The human characters were overshadowed by the apes. The action set pieces were impressive, but somewhat generic.
My best critique for this movie is that it is a good follow up to the original and a good stand alone Planet of the Apes film. I was impressed by the film’s darker taste, stepped up motion capture and character study of Caesar. But I struggled to find aspects of this film that stood out to me.