Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russel, Toby Kebbell
If you feel some apprehension with the release of the new installment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, know that it’s completely unnecessary. The film is wonderful, easily one of the best releases this summer.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues the story of Caesar (Serkis). When we left Caesar at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he was leading a group of apes into the woods to freedom. Around the same time, a viral outbreak began to spread throughout the world, killing most of the human population. Dawn picks up ten years later. The apes thrive under Caesar’s leadership, but humanity is all but lost. Jason Clarke co-stars as Malcolm, the leader of a human group attempting to fix a hydrodam near the ape’s home. As Caesar and Malcolm’s paths intersect, both men learn how alike their species are. For a moment it seems like peace between humans and apes is possible. Then the director reminds the audience in gut-wrenching fashion that this is a Planet of the Apes movie, and apes are destined to inherit the earth.
While Oldman and Clarke bring the necessary gravitas to their roles as the struggling leaders of a nearby human city, the real emotional heavy lifting is done by Andy Serkis as Caesar and Toby Kebbell as Koba, Caesar’s enforcer-turned-rival. Like it’s predecessor, humans are present in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the most important story beats surround their ape counterparts. The pacing is nearly perfect. With few exceptions, the special effects are divine.
There are a few problems. Because Caesar has so little dialogue, there is no explanation as to why he so blindly trusts apes. The CGI during the huge battle sequence sometimes leaves much to be desired. Even so, the story is so well put together and the characters so interesting, you won’t notice or care about it’s flaws.
The real strength of Dawn is it’s manages to take the best of summer popcorn movies and intellectual movies and give us something fresh and entertaining. A story that gives us just enough time to related and care for the characters, and just enough time of seeing the world crumble around them in ways that are not only logical, but inevitable. Too often, Hollywood studios churn out sequels that are just repeats of previous installments. All style, no substance. It’s refreshing to see a studio put out a sequel that lives up to—and in some ways surpasses—the original. A 4.5 out of 5.