Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review

Will You Go Ape Over This Sequel, or Will it Drive you Bananas?

Fernando Lyons


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place about 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).  The ape population is now thriving under the leadership of Caesar, while the human population, led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), is at the edge of extinction due to the ALZ-113 virus that was  unleashed at the end of Rise.  An exploratory squad of humans first encounter the super intelligent apes for the first time, while on a mission to restart a hydroelectric dam to provide power to the human camp.  In order to gain unimpeded access to the dam, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) must convince Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the unwelcoming apes, within three days, to allow the humans to trespass on ape territory.  this is where the adventure begins.


Early on, the audience is introduced to some key characters.  Caesar now has a young son, Blue Eyes.  The interaction between the two provides some very touching moments throughout the film.  Koba, the scary and scarred, trouble-making ape from Rise returns for this sequel, and is Caesar's second in command.  Early in the movie, Caesar and Koba are as close as brothers, however their relationship becomes strained as the humans arrive.  Koba begins to constantly question where Caesar's true allegiance lies, with apes or humans.  Andy Serkis.  Although the apes were computer generated and animated using motion capture, they were believable actors, and the emotion of each scene came through very well.  Kudos to well-renowned performance capture artist, Andy Serkis, for another exemplary performance.  As usual, Gary Oldman provided a great, layered performance, as Dreyfus.  He showed great strength as a leader of the struggling human remnant, who would do anything to ensure their survival, and he was able to show some emotions in private moments of reflection.  The visual effects in this movie were top-notch, and on part with almost every other movie released this summer.  The apes looked and moved in an ultra-realistic manner, and the end battle sequence provided some great explosions. 


The story in this movie was good.  The events played out well, and I walked away from the movie mostly satisfied, but I couldn't help but feel that I have seen this story before.  It was the all too familiar Hollywood story told in movies like The Avatar, Dances With Wolves, and The Last Samarai.  The pale-skinned hero (Malcolm) comes into contact with an indigenous people (the apes), works to become accepted and/or become their leader, and eventually saves them from an internal or external threat that they cannot protect themselves from. I won't get into a social commentary here, but using this tired old plot device was a disservice to a pretty good movie.  Also, the apes communicated with each other using sign language, which provided for some long moments of silence throughout the movie.  This was odd, since it was already established in Rise that these apes could communicate verbally.  Finally, for continuity's sake, I would have like to have seen more scenes with James Franco.  He was the protagonist in Rise, so it is just a minor gripe of mine that they didn't really explain his fate after the events of the prequel.


Overall, this is one of the rare movie sequels that exceeds the original in almost every way.  The video release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is on December 2nd, so if you didn't see it in the theaters, be sure to check this one out.            


Bottom Line:  Good Story, Touching Moments, Good Action Sequences, Great Effects, Solid Performances 

A Little Too Familiar, Slow Moments, No James Franco

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