Saturday AM Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up from the surprisingly awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes a few years ago. Director Matt Reeves’s addition to the series has brought the apes to the forefront of the story which is a welcome and refreshing change since I really liked Rise but was disappointed in the lack of ape action. Considering the sad state of affairs for most film sequels, I admit it. I was worried for this film...

Thankfully, in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the humans have become the secondary story line to the apes and their magnificent home (or empire) in the forest. It has been 10 years since the events in Rise, which finds Humans nearly decimated from a super-virus. The hyper-intelligent ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) has created a peaceful home and family; however, when humans stumble into the woods a potential war is underway. 

Reeves has approached Dawn from a fanboy’s perspective and expanded the world with subtle yet inventive detail. The cinematography and sets are stunning; the environments display the perfect blend of despair and hope in an apocalyptic setting: offers some of the imaginative battle sequences on a grand scale. The film is rather impressive in 3D as it reveals an incredible depth of scenery, playing to the grandiose settings with scale and action sequences that highlight the unique advantage of the apes. I will also say I think 3D is old news and is only worthy in certain situations.  I think the last movie I saw in 3D was Gravity and boy, was it an experience! That this film is able to sit in such heights as an Oscar-worthy film such as Gravity tells you that Dawn is a truly special film. 

Let's face it---Planet of the Apes movies, both the original petrology and these newer films, aren't really about the acting. The acting and characters—human—are okay (including Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Jason Clarke) in Dawn but the film's success is all about the genius of Andy Serkis. Motion capture is on the forefront of cinema but isn't quite respected or acknowledged as acting. Serkis is the king of mo cap, and if you think Caesar could have been created through CG with the same result, you are CRAZY! Motion capture is a technological art that enables an actor to portray something inhuman or other worldly and maintain all performance and emotion. Andy Serkis has perfected and created a new art form and elevated the role of Caesar. There is no question based on Serkis’s performance that Caesar is fully-formed character capable of tears-inducing agony and passion-filled rage.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has human vs. apes war, which really rages into an ape vs ape war! While this conflict is predictable that path to this scenario is truly memorable and filled with tragedy and excitement. The ending of the film has me excited for the next installment. The new Planet of the Apes movie will inch even closer to the ape-centric world which is a truly fascinating place unlike anything we have seen onscreen before. Dawn is a fun yet powerful film; it is what a summer movie should be. 

By Kasey Michael--a lover of all things entertainment. Born and bred in North Carolina, she has a degree in Film Studies and can usually be found in front of a screen.