Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Judy Greer, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell

Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language)

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

By Cole Schneider

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a complex shakespearean drama dressed up as a Hollywood blockbuster sequel. It’s centerpiece, Ape leader Caesar, was named after Shakespeare’s famous titular character and like the famous English play this film has two protagonists. It also has two antagonists as “Dawn” holds post-apocalyptic mankind up as a mirror to post-apocalyptic ape. That ape isn’t a mirror to man is a key distinction as it’s human characters (Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman) are inherently less interesting and dynamic characters versus the apes, specifically Caesar himself, brilliantly voiced by Andy Serkis.

“Dawn” explores the genesis of the war between the two primate species and like most wars it is spurred by a struggle for property, ethnicity, and pride. But at what cost is war worthwhile? Is war inevitable? What place does forgiveness have in a broken system? As lines become both blurred and defined between the two species, will it be war or peace that win the day. With Simian characters, which mirror man–not only the contained mankind of the film, but also the greater history of mankind–the answers are somehow both merciful and honest. In this way the larger questions raised are, “What does it mean to be a man?” and “Is this something I’m proud of?”

Meeting its ambitious writing with astute execution, director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”, “Let Me In”) keeps everything grounded in the world of the apes without sacrificing empathy for mankind. The effect on the viewer is astounding: we have no one to root for; we simply want peace, but see no end to the conflict. Friends, Romans, countrymen, go watch this film!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

By Matt Greene

Director Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) continues his hot streak with DotPotA, a sequel to the emotional and financial success from 2011. The premise (apes behaving and communicating like humans) remains terrifying for us hominids, but we continue to root for our supposed “enemies”. It’s a dark and scary film, not without moments of levity, which overcomes some clunky expositional dialogue with huge heapings of heart.  Throw in one of the greatest characters in all of scifi (Serkis’s Caesar), and a truly memorable villain, Dawn is an intense success.

Ten years after the first film, Earth has fallen into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Humans are dying off from spreading disease, and apes are advancing. This sets the stage for a much larger scale story than the first, dealing with temporary peace treaties and growing dissonance between worlds. So much of the film works, but aesthetics may be its shining point. The ape effects are still pretty spectacular, with the ever-competent Serkis doing some of his best work. There are amazing fire motifs, breathtaking destruction, inventive cinematography, and sets that are beyond fantastic. All of which leads to an end battle that pays off…full of personality and exhilaration.

Now, like the first the human characters aren’t the strongest aspect of the film, although they are improved here. The filmmakers seem more focused on the complexities of the apes. “Good” and “bad” never painted in broad strokes, apes being simultaneously heartbreaking, scary, and integral. In the end, Dawn has all we love in great science fiction: complex characters, thrilling adventure, big brains, and deep soul.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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