Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
How ironic is it that the smartest summer blockbuster this season is about talking apes?
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, like “Rise”, exceeds its audiences’ expectations.
Without being too heavy-handed, Dawn of the Apes shows what most of us already know: Prejudice and segregation are just two of the most damning qualities humans and in this case apes can have, and more often than not, it doesn’t end well for anybody.
Also, guns are really really bad. Especially in the hands of a psychopathic ape.
Picking up ten years after the prequel/reboot “Rise”, Caesar and his fellow apes have built quite the home for themselves. The redwood forest his human parents used to take him to before the “ape-pocalypse” is now more like an “ape-tropolis”. We see that Caesar has become both a leader and parent and that apes use sign to communicate. The apes do eventually get chatty but despite the lack of audible apes for the first part of the film, they prove that they have very intellectual conversations. Of course we know this doesn’t last very long, but those brief scenes before the apes and humans make contact are serene as they are marvelous.
Andy Serkis and the actors simulating the apes are without a doubt the stars of this film. With the help of WETA’s motion capture technology, it’s very easy to forget that these primates aren’t paid specialty actors. Yes, the technology does do a lot of the heavy lifting with the CGI, but the performance of the actors give the apes heart. Everything from Caesar’s world-weary facial expressions, to Koba’s snarling discontent is captured frame for frame in a way that dialogue is rarely needed.
The actors on the human side are serviceable, but like the first film are still kind of “one-note”. This is not necessarily a deal breaker though, since this is a movie about how apes soon come to rule the world. Gary Oldman, naturally is to the humans what Koba eventually becomes to the apes and Jason Clarke is the necessary pacifist that looks past prejudice and bonds with Caesar and his family.
Somber is the overall tone of the film, so those expecting a 2hr battle royale between apes and humans might be disappointed. That being said, the set pieces where the apes storm the human camp and the inevitable climatic battle between Caesar and Koba for Ape supremacy is still better than anything seen all summer.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely this summer’s best movie so far, and after disappointing sequels like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers 4 it’s good to know directors like Matt Reeves are still interested in making summer movies for adults as well as kids.