Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Movie Review #831: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is a terrifically (of the) fun (of the) time.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

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Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence, profanity)
130 minutes

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” tells an intriguing B-movie story and wears a gratifying costume of a $150 million Hollywood production. Both of those together can only be said of only the most memorable sci-fi movies, and to call “Dawn” a memorable might be a slight understatement.

This is a movie that not only develops but goes as far as to understand its characters. Each and every ape is presented in the likeness of a human being. They speak their own sign language, and the way they speak it isn’t forced; in fact, it’s conversational. While we’re led to agree with the humans’ logic, we’re led to sympathize with the apes.

Andy Serkis was the first in Hollywood to utilize motion-capture technology. That was 12 years ago, in “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”. In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, he plays the ape Caesar, and while just about every ape is given a great motion-capture performance, Serkis proves that he is still the god of motion capture performance. He’s the lifelike and dramatically engrossing standout here. His character Caesar is the leader of the ape tribes, but he faces condemnation for merely sympathizing with the humans. Serkis delivers the character so dramatically that we have no choice but to sympathize for him, as well.

When “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was released three years ago, I wasn’t a fan. I had to be prodded to go see “Dawn”, and I am glad I did go and see it. This is a sequel that transcends the previous work better than any sequel I can immediately think of. I couldn’t care much less for a movie like “Rise”, and yet I absolutely loved “Dawn”. Though the term “sequel” doesn’t seem to fit the movie so much as something less decisive. It’s more of a “followup.” The two films exist in the same universe, but “Dawn” is a much, much different movie than “Rise”, and a much, much better movie.

“Dawn” becomes increasingly enjoyable with its every frame. It’s most exhilarating during scenes of interspecies warfare. You’d be surprised by how exciting it is to see an ape wearing warpaint, riding a dark horse, and wielding a spear. Unfortunately, the film weakens as it ventures toward its ending. The thrilling action sequences (which make up the whole latter half of “Dawn”) continue unstoppably, but I must admit that Gary Oldman’s performance as Dreyfus is rather underwhelming.

Screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver focus on political messages that are every bit as enthralling as the movie’s action scenes. Both the humans and the apes in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” know that war is coming soon, but just how long will they be able to prolong the antebellum? And does Caesar’s sympathy for humans make him a coward, a traitor, or a plainly reasonable individual?

Though these messages aren’t at the heart of the movie. What’s key about “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the facility it exhibits in entertaining its audience. This is pure entertainment, which, as far as this critic is concerned, makes it the ideal blockbuster movie.

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10 thoughts on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

  1. Had to bookmark the reviews again. Only just saw the film.

    Great review. The film is an excellent visual and conceptual improvement of the first and that’s impressive in its own right. And Andy Serkis retains his Title as the master of motion capture.

    “Apes. Together. Strong.”

  2. Great review, man. Saw this one a few days ago and really enjoyed it.

    I especially agree with this: “I couldn’t care much less for a movie like “Rise”, and yet I absolutely loved “Dawn”. Though the term “sequel” doesn’t seem to fit the movie so much as something less decisive. It’s more of a “followup.” The two films exist in the same universe, but “Dawn” is a much, much different movie than “Rise”, and a much, much better movie.”

    However, I disagree on Oldman. I didn’t think his performance was underwhelming, rather his character was underwritten.

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