#REVIEW: “DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The 2014 Summer Blockbuster season has been underwhelming to say the least. There have been a few enjoyable blips along the way, but even those better films have managed to be either deeply flawed or ultimately forgettable. But I had high hopes for another Blockbuster on the horizon: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
And apparently Director Matt Reeves heard my cries for help, because he may have delivered what is easily the best Film of the Summer thus far.
After a short Prologue detailing the devastation to humanity caused by the virus from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the Film picks-up ten years later. The Apes have built a home for themselves in a forest near San Francisco. They are a peaceful tribe, communicating mostly in sign language under the guidance of Caesar (Andy Serkis). A group of Humans lead by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) arrive, looking to use a nearby dam to help power a small outpost of survivors in the City. Caesar initially is reluctant to help, but does so cautiously. But while he can trust Malcolm, tensions mount among other Humans and even other Apes – and the inevitability of war sets in very quickly.
Save for a minor pause in the Third Act, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the most consistently entertaining and exciting movie of the summer. The Plot is very clear and obvious from the onset, but that does not stop the Film from surprising you at every turn. Much like Rise did in 2011, Dawn takes you by surprise and never lets up until the credits. The Film opens and closes on an intense close-up of Caesar’s eyes, and I found it increasingly difficult to even consider looking away in-between times.
While the effects in Rise were fairly spectacular, the effects in Dawn are nothing short of extraordinary. Whether they are just walking around or engaged in an epic battle, each of the main Ape Characters is vividly detailed and the motion capture work is impeccable. You will believe that every inch of these walking, talking Apes are real, and not CGI creations. The addition of 3D helps add depth to the look of these characters, but sadly does not really amount to much else.
Serkis’ performance is the highlight of the Film, and is every bit as brilliant and brutally emotional as you have come to expect. He puts such an incredible amount of effort into the role, that he easily outshines every single Character, Human or CGI. If this performance does not get him recognized come Awards Season, then nothing will. Toby Kebbell holds his own against Serkis though, playing the villainous ape Koba. We only got a hint of who this character was in Rise – seeing him unleashed here, and especially when he plays off of Serkis, is just fantastic.
Clarke does a great job as the main Human Character, as does Keri Russell. The Trailers suggest Gary Oldman has a major role, but he is not in much of the Movie sadly. And much like his work in the remake of Robocop earlier this year, the Film e under-utilizes him. But he does rather thankfully get the single most emotional scene in the entire Film.
It took me a while to get excited for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but any Film that is brave enough to have its major Characters speak through sign language and subtitles is more than worthwhile to run out and see immediately. Reeves has followed up a shockingly enjoyable Reboot with an even better Sequel. And if Apes riding horses while firing guns are a magnificently epic high point for this Film, I can only imagine what he has in mind for Part 3.
20th Century Fox release Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in theatres now.