“Planet of the Apes” is one of the most widely known, classic sci-fi movies in the history of cinema; its themes, morals, messages and dark foreboding future of what man’s world might look like if we keep playing with nuclear fire continue to influence us to this very day. In 2011, a surprise gem appeared known as “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; it served as a reboot AND a prequel to the original film and captivated audiences and critics alike. Two years later, the story and the amazement continues with a sequel known as “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Replacing “Rise’s” director Rupert Wyatt with “Cloverfield” director Matt Reeves, “Dawn” is about to take everyone this summer to new heights on a classic ride that’s been updated and improved…even on par with the very first “Apes” film. How you may ask? Let’s find out.
Set 10 years after the devastating viral events of the first film, majority of the human population has been wiped out by a virus dubbed “The Simian Flu”; reducing most of the planet into a barren wasteland of rubble and decay. Caesar (Andy Serkis), the genetically altered ape and his fellow evolving ape tribe are growing in power and intelligence. After Malcolm (Jason Clarke), a leader of a small band of human survivors forges an uneasy peace with the apes; the humans and apes struggle to co-exist peacefully. But forces on both sides seek to tear this alliance apart and it’s only inevitable until a war between humans and apes breaks out…and Earth’s dominant species is decided.
As excited as I was for this movie, fear crept into my brain and caused me to feel dread at the unfortunate thought that this sequel (like most do) would pale miserably in comparison to its predecessor. In this case however, “Dawn” did not pale in comparison to “Rise”; it surpassed the first movie with FLAWLESS finesse. “Dawn” takes the story to a darker place and evolves the conflict into a full born, Doomsday war between humans and apes; perfectly balancing and representing each side with deep characters and strong good/bad forces that serve to escalate the film to further greatness. The apes rise to power is terrifying and magnificently represented in this film, the world is shaping up exactly how we fear it would and it captivates the audience into a star struck stupor; desperate to see how it all ends despite knowing the grim outcome.
WETA digital handled the effects for the first film and for this sequel, it’s obvious they have grown so talented that the line between real and CGI is getting smaller and smaller. Andy Serkis and his fellow motion capture ape co-stars become fully fleshed out, three dimensional characters; both in personality and realism. There are times I was watching these apes interact and emote and I sometimes forgot I was watching a computerized ape. Like the first film, the apes are the real stars here and it gives this movie a unique perception that we haven’t seen before from creatures or effects driven characters like this. That’s not to say the human actors fail in any capacity, when we DO see them they make the best use of their time and talents.
Jason Clarke is a fine lead and comes off naturally compassionate and relatable as one of the few people who try to bond with the apes. Gary Oldman gives it his all as always and as always, he continues to be a powerhouse actor that never gives a disappointing performance. The music was unbelievable, from beginning til end; the story and the music worked in hauntingly beautiful harmony that emphasized the most emotion/effect out of every scene in the film. So far, out of every film I’ve seen this year; I have not walked out of a movie feeling THIS satisfied. No amount of work or ill willed sarcasm could cough up even a minor problem with this picture. I cannot applaud, recommend or adore this movie enough; it is a MUST SEE that proudly deserves every bit of praise and recognition critics and fans are giving it.