Remember back in 2011 when we all feared that the second attempt to remake the Planet of the Apes series, after Tim Burton’s disastrous attempt in 2001 (a film I still feel was very underrated), was coming to theaters with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Our fears were quickly laid to rest when Rise of the Planet of Apes took a different direction then the classic series and actually made a movie that was very good! Well now we get the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a movie that is not only very good itself, but rises above the first, to be the rare sequel that surpasses the original.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes works not only as an action adventure but also as a science fiction film as well. It is way smarter then your average summer blockbuster, which is more concerned with blowing things up then it is having a brain. Dawn finds the perfect balance, by having the first hour of the film a rich piece of science fiction, with great character development from both the Apes and the Humans, as well as smart things to say about a variety of subjects.
The second half is were the action picks up and we get an epic battle scene that goes on for just over a quarter of the films running time. This contains some wonderful special effects and some fantastic action packed fights. Its enough to satisfy all summer viewers.
When the film first opens we learn that almost all of the human population has been wiped up, thanks to the virus from the first movie. There are a handful of humans left and they are lead by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). They are getting desperate as their fuel supplies are running low, and need to venture into the ape territory to get access to a dam, that will supply the city with power and energy.
We are not introduced to the humans right away though, as we spent about 20 mins of the start of the movie, watching the apes. We see that they have built a stunning home across a mountain side. We also see the monkeys have developed a schooling system for themselves and many of the apes have learned to speak English, much like their leader Caesar from the first film. The have advanced well and now use sign language and show a level of sophistication that could rival some humans.
There is some fantastic camera work in these early shots, as we see the apes attack a herd of deer and and the camera follows the apes as they swing into action. Director Matt Reeves has a fondness for long sweeping shots and that makes from some truly stunning visuals in the movie.
What I loved about these early scenes is that way we get introduced to many strong characters from both the apes and the humans. On the apes side alongside leader Caesar, we have Maurice an orangutan who is very wise and very loyal to Caesar, Blue Eyes Caesar’s oldest son who is young, naive and high impressionable and Koba an ape who Caesar saved from the cruel humans who were running tests on him and feels a strong sense of loyalty to Caesar, but is starting to think maybe Caesar loves the humans more then he does the apes.
On the human side of things we have Malcolm, and his team of workers which includes girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russel), his son Alexander (Kodi Smit- McPhee) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo). Each character is giving time to develop and lack the one dimensional feel we get from most secondary characters in the big tent pole movies of the summer.
The first hour of the film deals with the humans and the apes interacting and working together to help the humans get the damn running so they can have energy and not completely fade away. As were the second half of the film deals with a war that breaks out between the apes and the humans after both sides fail to realize it is better for both species if they work as a team. I will not say much more about the plot and will allow you to check it out for yourself, as it contains many of gems.
I can’t go without mention the fantastic work of Andy Serkis who once again uses a brilliant mix of human acting and computer generated imagery. Serkis has done similar work in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, as well as King Kong and of course Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It has become a long running joke that Serkis has not received an Oscar nomination for acting, after so masterfully stealing the show in all of those above mentioned films. You can debate all you want if he deserves to be part of the acting category but at this point they should definitely make a special Oscar to honor his work. His Caesar is the most interesting character in a film, filled with interest characters.
As I mentioned before Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that rare sequel that is better then the original, in just about every way possible. The special effects this time are simply breath taking and should clearly be up for an Oscar come Feb. As were the first film felt a bit rushed at certain points, this film takes it time and really allows the characters to progress in a natural way, nothing is sped up here and in the later scenes in the film that really pays off. My only fault with the film is that it was perhaps about 2o mins to long, as the final fight scene seems to really drag on and brought down my rating for the film a far bit.
With an absolutely fantastic first hour and a fairly great, if a bit to long, action packed second hour and ending that clearly sets up another sequel but is done in a way that makes sense to the events that proceed them, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes represents a nearly perfect summer blockbuster. I would easily recommend it over the silly Amazing Spiderman 2, the overstuffed Transformers Age of Extinction and the not as smart as it thinks it is Godzilla.
Much like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an action movie with a brain and easily stands alongside those two films as the champions of summer of 2014 blockbusters.