Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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One of the biggest film surprises of 2011 was the success of Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Relying heavily on the back of Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a film that no one expected to do well. Three years later, Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is released in theaters. With a new director and cast, does Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continue the achievement that Rise of Apes accomplished or is Dawn of Apes nothing but a cash grab sequel that erases all of the momentum created by the original?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the latest film by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, is one of those rare sequels that surpass the original in every way. The film is a highly impressive drama that is filled with emotion, suspense and action.

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Dawn of Apes follows the world ten years after the simian flu decimated most of the human race. As humans are trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild, Caesar and his group of genetically evolved apes have created a community in the forests of Northern California. However, Caesar’s peaceful life is disrupted as a chance encounter with a group of human survivors threatens the community he created for his fellow apes. Both sides reach a fragile peace, but it proves to be short lived, as both humans and apes are brought to the brink of a war that’ll determine who will become Earth’s dominant species.

The hiring of Reeves is one of the best things to happen to the franchise since Andy Serkis joined. Reeves managed to do what was originally thought impossible: Improve on the excellent Rise of Apes in every way possible. To make a clear comparison, Dawn of Apes is to Rise what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars. A bold statement for sure, but it’s absolutely true.

Reeves has brought a film that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat for two hours and doesn’t let up. He also does a great job balancing the screen time between all of the main characters, human and ape. By doing this, you connect with these characters on an emotional level, and this emotional investment allows you to take part in the story and bond with the characters. It’s one of those rare times where you dread for an action-packed battle to occur because you don’t want any harm to happen to these characters. It’s an approach that very few summer blockbusters would dare to do.

The film’s strength comes from writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback’s thoughtful script. The human and ape stories weave together perfectly and deliver a message that’s seen in many war films: Both sides aren’t all that different. Fitting considering that apes and humans are really alike. In addition, each character’s arc has an impact on the overall story. Every character’s decisions have consequences and impact the plot.

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Much like the original, Andy Serkis is the driving force behind the film. The man many consider to be the best motion capture actor in Hollywood has brought his A-game to the film. The emotions that he conveys through his face, eyes and body language will make you connect with Caesar more than you did in Rise. In addition, Serkis brought a sense of gravitas when he interacts with the other motion capture actors; there’s no denying that Caesar is the beloved leader of the apes.

Unlike the original though, the entire film doesn’t solely rely on Serkis as Toby Kebbell’s amazing portrayal of Koba rivals Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar. Koba’s evolution into the film’s villain is only enhanced by Kebbell’s layered performance as he plays it with such emotional torment.

As for the humans, Jason Clarke owns his role as Malcolm but the other actors such as Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee are just there to add numbers to the humans and guide some of the story along.

Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not your typical summer blockbuster film; it’s something more special. This rewarding sequel offers audiences a film that consists of complex emotional performances, riveting action scenes and groundbreaking CGI. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ranks up there as one of the best films of the year.

Rating: 5/5 Atoms
NR 5 Atoms - A

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1117 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.

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