Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Review
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – July 11, 2014 (9.5/10)
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a cinematic epic. I haven’t been swept away by the realism of a CGI character since Jurassic Park. In the three years since Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the motion capture technology has improved tenfold. But unlike Gravity, this movie has a great story to accompany the special effects.
Dawn takes place ten years after the first movie. Most of the world’s population is dead from the virus and the remaining survivors live in heavily guarded compounds. During that same time, Caesar and the other apes built their own community in the forest. The humans are now trying to access the nearby dam in order to generate power again. But they have to pass through the apes’ territory in order to reach it. Then once those two societies meet, it sets the inevitable conflict into motion.
The story brilliantly compares and contrasts the two civilizations. Caesar wants to avoid war in order to protect the lives of the apes. But Koba doesn’t trust the humans and would rather kill them to safeguard their species. While at the same time, Malcolm (Jason Clark) also wants to avoid war so the two societies can live in peace. But Carver (Kirk Acevedo) thinks the only way to survive is to kill the apes. Guess which two characters screw it up for everyone else?
This conflict would not carry the same weight if it weren’t for the advancement in motion capture technology. Poor CGI can easily take you out of a movie. It can make the scariest of characters seem like cartoons. It’s the difference between Caesar looking like Curious George or a real ape. There was so much more detail in the faces that you could see every smirk or snarl. And that made all the difference in the realism because the emotions are captured in the close-ups.
Director Matt Reeves did an incredible job pacing this film. As spastic as Cloverfield was, it’s nice to see Reeves pull off an action movie with a slow burn. Dawn also features some of the greatest pieces of music. The score is absolutely perfect and the track ‘Enough Monkeying Around’ will leave you humming that tune long after you leave the theater. Reeves expertly sets the tone and makes you believe in this world. It’s movie magic at its finest.
Overall, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a near masterpiece. The only area of the movie that I disagreed with was the ending. It still works for this story, but it could have been much better. I’ll get into those details in the spoiler section below. You don’t have to see the first movie to enjoy this one because the beginning summarizes the previous events. I absolutely can’t wait for the next movie. This is easily the most remarkable franchise.
This movie was moving along perfectly until the end. In order to rally the apes to attack the city, Koba shoots Caesar and blames it on the humans. Then the apes take over the armory, which is stupidly located OUTSIDE of the compound. Seriously, why would you keep all your weapons out in the open? Anyway, they fight their way in and start putting humans into cages. This would have been the perfect set-up to a planet of apes. But we soon find out the Caesar is still alive and fights back against Koba to reclaim his authority and leadership.
This makes things a little complicated. Whenever Caesar is in charge, I’m rooting for the apes. But whenever Koba is in charge, I’m rooting for the humans. And since Koba is the villain, it would have been the natural progression of the story for the humans to be the victims now. But since Caesar returns, the apes are the victims again. It would have been so much better is Caesar stayed dead. It also would have been the perfect symbolism to Julius Caesar, who was also betrayed and killed by his political enemies. They even could have thrown in a “Et tu, Koba?”
Now it’s very possible that this transfer of power from humans to apes will be fully realized in the next movie. But there is moral dilemma with Caeser wanting peace between the two species. So will he reluctantly kill all the humans? Does this mean that if they eventually remake Planet Of The Apes again that I’ll be on the ape’s side instead? Something needs to happen where the apes are seen as the villains. They had it perfectly set up with Koba taking over power. But with Caesar coming back and killing him makes things a little complicated moving forward.
I also noticed a little movie mistake. When power is finally restored to the city, Gary Oldman’s iPad turns on and he starts to cry as he looks through old pictures of his family. But the iPad shows 72% battery power! That should have been an easy fix to make in post-production. If you can turn human actors into apes, you can change the battery percentage on an iPad. It’s also a mini PSA for having physical copies of photos.