Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Apes do not want war!-Andy Serkis as Caesar

Ten years have passed since the events that transpired in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Since Caesar, played by Golden Globe nominee Andy Serkis (“King Kong,” “The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King”), and his legion of genetically enhanced apes began their uprising in San Francisco, the numbers of humanity have reportedly been exponentially diminished due to a virus that broke out at the same time as Caesar’s uprising began.

Andy Serkis give a powerful performance as Caesar in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

In that ten year span, Caesar and his family have been flourishing in a peaceful community and haven’t come in contact with any human since. All of that changes, when a man named Carver, played by Kirk Acevedo (“Invincible”), shoots an ape in self-defense and his actions will spur reactions which could jeopardize everything Caesar has worked so hard to build.

Carver is part of a team led by Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”). They are part of a surviving faction of humans who are genetically immune to the virus, the humans call “simian flu,” and they are running out of energy to power what is left of San Francisco and their only hope is to revive an old hydroelectric dam that happens to be in Caesar’s territory.

Jason Clarke (center) leads a small party to request Caesar’s assistance in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Though tensions are high and the possibility of all-out war is only a spark away, Malcolm takes it on himself to venture back to the ape’s territory and request Caesar to allow himself and a small team, including his wife Ellie, played by Keri Russell (“August Rush”), and their son Alexander, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Road,” “Paranorman”), to repair the dam to restore power to the city.

The leader of the human colony Dreyfus, played by Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “The Dark Knight”), does not believe the apes can be trusted to broker a deal, while on Caesar’s side, his friend and ally Koba, played by Toby Kebbell (“War Horse,” “Wrath of the Titans”) hates humans on the principle that they tortured and experimented on him while he was a young lab monkey and wants retribution by any means necessary.

Caesar slowly fosters a trusting relationship with Malcom and his family but that bond will be tested by forces that will usher the inevitable: the prospect of war. Humanity and ape-kind cannot share the mantle of dominant species of the Earth and Caesar will hold the fate of his tribe of primates and the future of humanity in his hands.

In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) decides to take the rebooted franchise to a darker, intense yet familiar place and the result is a very well-established film pulsating with drama and visual allure despite the flaws to the concept of select characters.

This movie is essentially Caesar’s tale about trying to protect his family and his home from the inevitable and unforeseeable, and Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance is the star of the show. Serkis as Caesar, Kebbell as Koba, Karin Konoval (“Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”) as Maurice, Judy Greer (“The Descendents,” “Love and Other Drugs”) as Cornelia, Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes and the rest of the cast in their primate roles did a very remarkable job.

The human cast gave decent performances themselves. Clarke, Russell, Smit-McPhee, Acevedo, Oldman while not collectively gathering a lot of screen-time, the film follows the apes more than the humans, were all decent; no one gave any noticeable/memorable performances but the acting wasn’t disappointing.

Toby Kebbell as Koba is still scarred from what he suffered at the hands of humans in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Matt Reeves stepped in to direct this feature and he did a commendable job. Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mark Bomback (“The Wolverine”) wrote a screenplay that was a little too ape-focused, but highlighted the fragility of the time for both sides of this conflict and that allowed the tension of the film to be felt by the audience.

This movie would be nothing without the top-quality visual effects, but this movie is also brilliant when it comes to the sound and the editing which allows the movie to flow very naturally and give the audience a chance to digest what is happening.

The flaws in this film fall on what is done to the human characters. Granted this is Caesar’s movie and the film does have right to follow him, when it comes to the humans they are written to come in and out of the central plot so abruptly; they do what they are supposed to do and then they are never heard from again.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a very exciting feature that leaves audiences to speculate the possibilities of what is going to happen next. It is a visually daring feature with a story that is easy to grasp and despite its flaws it is a very enjoyable film to see.

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