Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the sequel to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and carries a lot over from the first film. Both Dawn, and Rise are the newly rebooted origin of the 60’s Sci-Fi franchise Planet Of The Apes. Despite the long history of the series, and the extremely long titles the film can easily stand on it’s own without the other films. There are a startling amount of characters that return in this film but their relationship with Caesar (the titular ape) can be easily surmised through the films excellent use of world building.
The world of Dawn is truly outstanding. There are small elements hidden within scenes that make the world feel real. All of the elaborate, yet primal construction done by the apes, and the layered history of the downtrodden human settlement all feel real. The reason it works so well is mainly due to the excellent blend of practical, and digital effects. All of the sets asides from the ending rooftop sequence are real locations. The expansive home base of Caesar was built for real in the parking lot of an abandoned theme park, and the scene where the base is set aflame was done by actually setting the set on fire. They put so much time and effort into blending the two that you believe in the reality of the CG effects. When an ape grabs Jason Clarke’s character and throws him to the ground you see him fall so realistically that it sells the entire sequence. The effects on the apes are some of the most convincing CG I have ever seen. They seem almost photo-realistic in their beautiful rendering. Weta (the effects company) continues to improve with every film they work on, and always push the boundaries of special effects.
The characters are also another strong selling point of the film. I mentioned before how it carries over characters from the original film, and it really takes full advantage of that. You saw the main villain Koba last movie get completely tortured by scientists, and then you see him earn his freedom by trusting in Caesar’s leadership. All of this backstory just makes his betrayal that much more heartbreaking. What’s interesting about Koba’s character is that you can see why he has such a deep hatred for the human race, and you see how other characters look up to him. Caesar’s son Blue Eyes see’s Koba as another father figure so once the betrayal is set in motion you are really surprised. It’s also nice to see characters like the Orangutan Maurice return. His role as a teacher in the ape society feels natural, and earned. What’s interesting is that they really didn’t need to bring back any of these characters. The film could have easily just been Caesar and a new brand of apes, and most of the audience wouldn’t have even noticed. This is the overarching triumph of the film, the fact that it takes a lot of time forming a continuity. Now I haven’t talked much about the human characters because if this isn’t really their story. They have a few great moments, like Gary Oldman’s dramatic reveal of his lost family, and the youngest boy sharing his Manga with Maurice but for the most part they aren’t the focus. Yes they affect the plot drastically but the bulk of the film is focusing on Ape society showing how it’s grown.
The storyline brings in a bunch of very interesting political, and societal roles with all sides getting a fair representation. The filmmakers aren’t afraid to sit back and take time building up their plot. A lot of the first act has little to no dialogue and yet never loses the attention of the viewer. The quiet scenes are just as wonderful as the action set pieces. Speaking of action the film has some outstanding portrayals of war seen through a different lens then normally. Nearly all of the bloodshed you see is that of ape, and the graphic warfare almost seems more like a world war two movie. The big action sequence also wisely turns the tables on the fight from the last movie. In the last film you were rooting for the apes, and in this film you know the apes are in the wrong.
Overall this is one of the best films of The Planet Of The Apes franchise, second only to that of the original 68 film. It has everything one could ask for in a summer blockbuster. Tight plot, great action, good characters, a concrete message, and excellent effects. It builds upon all of the elements of Rise, and manages to flesh out the story even more. If you are looking for one of the best action films to come out in the last five years Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes will definitely not disappoint.
And if you are looking than look no further than HBO. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes debuts on the mother channel on SATURDAY, MAY 23 at 8:00pm. Of course, if you have HBOGo/HBONow than you can watch it anytime. Get back into the story with this tease and enjoy.