Film Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Header
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues on the great path set by its predecessor, but a bit more character and an original story could have taken the series to the next level.

Picking up ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, DotPotA starts with humans being unseen by the ape colony for two years as their population/community has thrived under Caesar. All of this is threatened when humans show up trying to fix a damn on apes territory and the balance of their world begins to be potentially tossed into unbalance.

I was a big fan of RotPotA and was very much looking forward to this sequel and I wasn’t really disappointed. I throw that “really” in there because I do have a couple of thoughts on where the film fell short, but even its shortcomings don’t really hold it back. There is that “really” again. The humans are just a bit too shallow and almost forced into the story with the simplest of motivations for being there. Yes, survival is the ultimate motivation, but the stakes didn’t have the weight I needed to really care about the humans; good or bad. Then on the apes side of things, the coup hits all the expected beats, and while wonderfully executed, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted something a bit more substantial, plot wise. Koba is a great, tragic character with air tight motivations, but, again, everything seems a bit too surface level to make the apes storyline truly great. These are barely a complaints, more of a wishful longing. I can say that the film does feel more like a transition to get to the war than a fully rounded story on its own. Not a lot changes from start to finish, for anyone. The apes find themselves in a new location, and the ape/human war might be on, but none of the characters are all that different from when this film started.

Too much nitpicking, as I really like this movie. Matt Reeves is a director that I have really enjoyed in his two earlier films (Cloverfield & Let Me In) and he does a great job here with the action and the visuals. The simple script is what holds the film back, as Reeves understands how to shoot effects and stage some great set pieces. The shot of the year might come out of this movie, which involves Koba and a tank. Speaking of Koba, Toby Kebbell gives Andy Serkis a run for his money as the tortured lab ape that has become Caesar’s number two and enforcer. Koba gets all the best bits and carries most of the film’s action, and Kebbell has no problem selling his sort of quick, even if believable, transition. Andy Serkis continues to excel in the motion capture world and I think we have to make Caesar his greatest achievement, now two films in. The effects team deserves just as much credit though, as their work here really is astounding. That attack scene with Koba and the tank is jaw dropping at times and you will not doubt once the work that the effects team put up on the screen.

The message of the film, and how stupid and fearful the human race can be was also much appreciated. People are so dumb and ignorant, and the film is never afraid to show humanity at its worst. Caesar is a role model for all, and I like that Jason Clarke’s character tries to get that across. Fearful humans are the worst kind of humans.

I know I spent half the review nitpicking, but I really adored this movie. I can’t wait to see it again and look forward to getting a look at it separated from my expectations (which I try to never have). The effects are incredible, as are Serkis and Kebbell, and I can’t wait for the next film in, hopefully, a long running series. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes could have been a bit more creative in the plot and character department, but for everything it falls short on it wonderfully executes just about everything it does go for.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a B+

P.S. New Giacchino Score! Get excited people!

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