First off, I’d like to say I’m a huge fan of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes. So, of course, I wanted to check out the newest entry in the franchise. The Apes films have had some tough times and even though 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a good film, it had some issues that kept it from being great. So going into the film this weekend, I had high expectations for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Man the titles for these films are long.
Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby) and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy) play Malcolm and Dreyfus respectfully, founders of a community in a ruined San Francisco. Keri Russell (August Rush) plays Ellie, Malcolm’s resourceful wife and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) plays Alexander, Ellie and Malcolm’s son. On the ape’s side of things, Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Ring Trilogy) returns as Caesar, the first of his kind and leader of the apes. Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans) plays Koba, the disgruntled ape under Caesar’s command. Nick Thurston (Not for Human Consumption) plays Blue Eyes, Caesar’s son who still has lots to learn.
I think I’ll have to start off with what would have probably been on most people’s minds while watching this movie: the special effects. I know, I know. Most films have great special effects nowadays but man, how breathtakingly real do the apes look in this movie. We could see every facial expression, every hair on the ape’s bodies and every drop of blood that left their bodies. And because of the technology used to bring these animals to life, they become real characters that we care about and feel for.
The majority of the film centered on the importance of family and trust. Screenwriter Mark Bomback (The Wolverine) made sure that these themes weren’t forced to forcefully down our throats. I cringed more than a few times at Rise of the Planet of the Apes dialogue, but there weren’t any lines in this movie that caused me to shutter. Bomback did well by keeping the film serious by not adding any unneeded talking ape humor into the screenplay.
Though the main focus was the apes, the human characters were not sacrificed to better the ape’s development. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) made sure to make use of them appropriately. Doing so, he created a well-rounded film where you don’t just automatically root for the humans. Not all apes were good, and not all humans were bad. Each of the civilizations were only as strong as their weakest link and neither were ruled dominantly by good or bad character.
The sets and locations used to film this movie were spectacular. Now I’m no expert on vegetation, but the overgrown city of San Francisco looked what I would assume a metropolis would look like after years and years of neglect, war and disease. The ape’s home in the forest took some elements from the original 1968 films settlement, but in this film it looked like the first steps towards that.
Finally there is a modern blockbuster that used its title CGI characters well without having to rely on typical human characters. I’m looking at you, Transformers. From the trailers I wasn’t expecting much from this film. But how amazing this movie turned out to be! From beginning to end, I was swallowed and then spit out of Dawn of the Planet of the Ape’s world. It is a huge improvement over its predecessor. If you plan on going out to the theatre, I can’t recommend this film enough!
Director: Matt Reeves
Screenplay: Mark Bomback & Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nick Thurston