It’s time for another D&D Mixed Review. As always the review will feature Denis and myself making points on the film in four different categories; plot, performances, production and overall film quality. We then end with a rating of SEE IN THEATRE, WAIT FOR RENTAL or PASS. So let’s find out if this is a classic or another Tim Burton-like mess.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up eight years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes with most of humanity wiped out due to an ape based superflu. Dawn follows two main characters; Caesar (Andy Serkis) who leads a large group apes evolved from the drug developed in the last film, and Malcolm (Jason Clarke) a survivor who along with his new wife and child live in a colony in the ruins of San Francisco.
While Malcolm and his group were exploring the outskirts of SF they run into a group of apes. After an shooting, the group of humans are surrounded by angry apes. Caesar, looking to avoid war, allows the humans to leave but later follows. Once confronted with the human’s leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) the apes tell the humans not to come back to their home, our else war will start.
However, the human’s need a hydro dam that’s near the apes territory. So Malcolm, now trying to understand the evolved creatures, starts a partnership with the apes. But both sides aren’t excited about the relationship and the seeds of war are quickly planted.
Dawn has three different writers credited on the production, and while there are times where it seems like there’s too many cooks in the kitchen, the majority of writing is good. The plot is pretty basic as the majority of the film focuses on the building relationship between Caesar and Malcolm. Dawn does feature some contrive elements you might imagine for a film like this such as the hot head who doesn’t trust the apes or the evil character that wants to take over, but these elements are used well.
The film favours the apes storyline, leaving the humans to be a little underdeveloped. But the great thing about the plot is you can empathize with each side of the conflict and understand why they are doing what they’re doing. While the film can feel its length, every element to the film feels appropriate and natural.
Much like Rise, Dawn is all about the people behind the apes. The technology is so impressive letting computer generated apes keep so much of the sedulity of actors facial movements. The apes look almost realistic and all of the ape actors play them well (i.e. movements, yelling so on). Outside of the apes, the majority of the cast isn’t so impressive. While Gary Oldman gives a lot to his character the rest of the cast is only passible. No one really stands out, making talking about them or even remembering their names very difficult. It’s all about the apes…as it should be I guess?
The strongest performances come from the apes, and expanding on their personalities and relationships. Caesar’s struggle as a leader is that he’s one of the only apes that understands the good in humanity and this dynamic is fantastic to watch. But Caesar’s performance wouldn’t work well with the story if every central and supporting actor didn’t bring it. And damn son, ‘de brought it.
As I mentioned in the section above, the effects on the apes are extremely impressive. Andy Serkis is the only guy to do this type of work and the tech makes his performance even better. Aside from the tech, the film’s direction is excellent. Director Matte Reeves and Cinematographer Michael Seresin come up with some interesting shots including a few fun tracking shots, the better being based around a spinning tank. Music wise the film feels much like the classic Ape films. Composer Michael Giacchino used a mixture of classical string and even adds some xylophone into the score for more depth in certain scenes. Overall the films production is it’s strongest part.
For a summer blockbuster to not have shaken camera syndrome is fantastic. The great thing about the production as a whole is it’s classic movie making feel. The CGI aids in bringing to life great ape performances, and the soundtrack is powerful and grand. Everything about the films look, feel, and sound sells its world. It’s just quality filmmaking.
While the technology, score and script were all pretty tight, the lack of interesting performances from the human characters makes it hard to stay interested when the apes are off screen. The film looked great in larger film format and had plenty of moments where it wowed. However, there were a few times that didn’t. Additionally the film felt a bit long during the final 40 minutes. That being said, this is a good film. WATCH IN THEATRE
It was fantastic, as I think about it now I already want to watch it again. It is a fantastic sequel that feels like its own film. While you will understand more if you see the film before it, I think it can stand on its own. It’s flaws are minimal and let’s face it, as a follow up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is awesome. Just watch it and enjoy. WATCH IN THEATRES
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was produced by Chernin Entertainment and Dune Entertainment. The film is distributed by 20th Century Fox.