Film Review : Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Matt Reeves
Starring – Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, and Gary Oldman

In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.

ALL HAIL CAESAR!!!

Gah! I just want to see it again!A couple years ago I was shocked by how much I liked the reboot of The Planet of the Apes. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that they must have just ran out of idea because Tim Burton already ruined a great franchise, but to my surprise Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fantastic attempt to reboot the whole series. Well, it is almost certain that this is going to last a while because “Dawn” is cleaning house at the box office and just so happens to be one of the best action movies I’ve seen since District 9. I mention that film because it was the last time, other than Inception, that I was blown away by an effects driven action film. I was on the edge of my seat. I was slacked jawed at the entire middle act. I walked away from the theater immediately thinking of when the next time I could go back to see it. I needed a little pick me up this week.

The film starts out with a stage setting sequence that actually doesn’t suck for once as it tells us about the fall of the human race due to our dance with science and the need to help old people with Alzheimer’s. There are few who were genetically immune to the epidemic and survived but are now forced to live in mad max style colony with gas generators and filth running in the streets. This isn’t a human world anymore, at least not near San Francisco. The outer forests of California, which look like the Amazon in this film, are now colonized by a much more advanced society of apes led by the one, the only, fucking Caesar. Seriously, he may be one of my favorite movie characters after this film. The writing staff who worked on this film just nailed the character and all his moral glory. Caesar is still living with familiar faces such as Maurice the giant Orangutan and Koba the scar faced lab ape. Caesar also has a new family comprised of a son and wife, both of whom play a big role in the film. It’s funny but the film picked a great time to be released with all the tension in Israel and Pakistan, but also stuck to serious moral issues of family and friendship. I won’t go to far into the plot because it’s a ride you want to take on your own but the trailer gave most of that away anyway.

I was surprised by how much the story of the film payed homage to Shakespeare, Julius Caesar to be specific, which is a funny joke if you ask me. It seems like it would be at least. A subtle retelling of Julius Caesar about an ape…NAMED CAESAR? It sounds crazy, but it actually worked quite well as we see tension and fighting within the ape colony. This is their film by the way. Do not go into this film thinking that you’re going to get a whole lot of Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. They are there only to progress the storyline as the natural enemy, meaning being human, of the apes. The real meat and potatoes is all ape baby and the actors behind these apes should be heaped with praise. HEAPED. Andy Serkis continues to be an absolute treasure in a motion capture suit. “Rise” was impressive enough, but this film takes motion capture to a whole new level. There were more close up shots of all the apes doing ape things that made me believe I was watching the real thing. The only ape that looked CGI was Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who for some reason just could not shake the fact that he wasn’t real. Every other ape, mostly the villainous Koba, looked completely genuine and was helped greatly by their motion actors. Speaking of Koba, Toby Kebbell may have outshined Serkis with his performance. If I was present in front of Koba I would be shitting my pants. His scarred body and menacing jaws would have had me running in the other direction as I was actually pretty frightened in the theater, which doesn’t happen much. The on screen humans, led by a great actor in Jason Clarke, all did a fantastic job hooking me emotionally into the story. There were some moments that just weren’t needed much, mostly having to do with the kid and girlfriend of Clarke, but it didn’t distract too much. Gary Oldman was fantastic as always and had two really great scenes in where he both gave a speech and made me teary eyed. The cast was a home run.

The action was just top notch. There was one scene involving a tank that seriously almost made me stand up and clap. It reminded me of shots that Alfonso Cauron would construct in Children of Men. It’s easily my favorite shot of the year and may be my favorite shot since Gravity came out. The gigantic ending set piece which climaxed the film was pretty awesome but seemed to mirror the final set piece in “The Amazing Spiderman” too much. I was into it, but it just seemed to similar. The whole est of the film was so unique that the ending that the ending battle just let me down a tiny bit. Oh, and finally, we arrive and end with Caesar. The opening and final shots of his face are just perfect. Perfect!

As you can see, I loved the film. I want to see it again. Hopefully I’ll see it again because it was a blast to watch and a serious contender for my top films of the year. I’m so glad it’s making money because Matt Reeves is a talent behind the camera and really seems to have a grasp on this franchise. Hell, Nolan couldn’t even make two outstanding Batman films back to back. He made a Dark Knight sandwich with two stale pieces of bread. This is the making of a serious sandwich fit for a king. An ape king. FUCKING CAESAR!

4.5/5




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