Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Rises Above Predecessors

The new sci-fi action film from Matt Reeves breathes new life into the franchise.
 by Curtis Betz 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the smash sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I went in to see this movie with rather low expectations, so I was very pleasantly surprised when Dawn far surpassed its predecessors.  The second installment in the Planet of the Apes rebooted franchise continues the story of Caesar the chimpanzee, who was genetically enhanced in Rise, and his band of apes that he also enhanced.  This story takes place 10 years after the events in Rise and shows that humanity has been nearly destroyed by disease and war.  There is a small colony of survivors in San Francisco that must venture into ape territory in the forest outside of the city in order to restore electricity to the colony.  Caesar, who leads the apes, only wants peace and allows the humans to work in ape territory in order to fix a dam for hydroelectric power.  However, Koba, Caesar’s second in command, does not think that the humans can be trusted.  This hatred and mistrust eventually leads to all-out war between humans and apes.
Caesar is played by Andy Serkis, the master of motion capture acting.  Before playing an intelligent chimpanzee, he rose to stardom playing Smeagol/ Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The computer animation for the apes is incredible, to the point where the line between live action and animation is blurred.  Serkis’ brilliant acting shines through despite the fact that he is painted over with CGI, and it is his amazing talents that make an ape seem so human.  Gary Oldman plays the leader of the humans, Dreyfus, and despite only a minimal amount of screen time he has some of the most captivating moments.  In particular, there is one memorable scene in which Oldman weeps over pictures of his lost family, and it really reminds the audience what the worst part of an apocalypse would be.  

Many people have panned the new Planet of the Apes movies as another in a long list of weak Hollywood remakes, but I disagree.  The 2001 version of Planet of the Apes was a remake of the original from 1968, however Rise of the Planet of the Apes began a complete retelling of the story.  The original movies lacked a solid timeline and were littered with chronological inconsistences.  Rise remedies this by setting up a clear backstory which is continued in Dawn.  I, for one, am looking forward to the next Planet of the Apes movie as I am sure that it will continue telling this fantastic story in a logical fashion.