Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has been out for a week now and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. You can find an index of my Apes reviews here and also check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast here. Now, let’s close out my Franchise Review of Planet of the Apes with one final review…for now.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up a decade after the events of Rise with the human population decimated by the Simian Virus. The apes enjoy their peaceful existence in their ever-growing colony outside San Francisco. However, things get out of hand when an encounter with humans turns violent and Caesar soon finds his leadership tested.
This movie was incredible. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the best movie of the franchise for me, until Dawn blew it out of the water. Let’s start with the visual effects. This movie took what was jaw dropping about Rise and amplified it tenfold. There are mesmerizing shots of the apes’ colony with absolutely seamless mo-cap technology and CGI used for an overwhelming number of people onscreen. It’s incredibly impressive.
The apes are the centerpiece of the movie and while they have evolved quite a bit in the decade since the events of Rise, they still have a long way to go. The special effects work perfectly to show the subtle ways the apes interact with one another. In the previous movie, Andy Serkis‘ emotions onscreen as Caesar were the standout. In Dawn, every ape shows a wide range of emotion. It’s truly spectacular.
The movie packs a considerable amount of story into its 130-minute runtime. Director Matt Reeves juggles a wealth of ape-centric storylines while also dishing out important human exposition and character arcs without sacrificing the movie’s pacing or interfering with its plentiful action sequences. This is an achievement that cannot go unnoticed. I hope this movie catapults Reeves into “must have” director status for Fury high profile projects.
In my Rise of the Planet of the Apes review, I was dismayed at how the action appeared toned down for the assumed purpose of a definite PG-13 rating. Dawn more than made up for that with its unforgiving action sequences and spurts of violence. Reeves is clearly a filmmaker with a firm handle on how the MPAA operates.
The action set pieces are also lit incredibly well thanks to cinematographer Michael Seresin. There is one particular battle sequence that takes place largely on a city street lit by the disturbing orange glow of streetlights. The light in the darkness of this sequence gives the apes an even more formidable and intimidating stature.
The movie is focuses on the apes’ perspective. Caesar has a family and is the leader of their peaceful home. When the apes disagree and have infighting, I was awestruck by the level of intensity in both the performances and by the demonstration of ape power that these scenes showcased. It built the movie toward a very memorable third act.
The humans, on the other hand, don’t necessarily take a backseat in this movie but there was room for a bit more with them. There is a respectable amount of time spent developing the survivor family relationship of Jason Clarke‘s Malcolm, Keri Russell‘s Ellie and the kid they’re raising, Alexander (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee). Ultimately, I wish the movie spent a little more time on their family dynamic and explored more about what it’s like to be on the human survivor side of the conflict, though.
Even with that single issue, this movie was nearly perfect in its concept, execution, pacing, technology and ultimate vision. To call it simply a summer blockbuster couldn’t possibly do the movie justice. It is unequivocally the best movie in the Apes franchise and will one day soon join the ranks of my Blu-Ray collection. See it as soon as you can.
A movie fan is only as good as his or her movie collection. Titles that earn this grade are worth adding to your collection sight unseen and at full price.