Matt Reeves could not have been a better choice to direct Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It helps that Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback penned the script. Rupert Wyatt did a fantastic job directing the first film in this “origins” series of the Apes saga, but there is a tone that Reeves lays out in his summer movie epic that truly suits a riveting second chapter.
In fact, in many ways it reminds us of The Empire Strikes Back. It is a sequel done impeccably right, while still knowing that there is a long road to follow.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes reinvigorated a franchise in a way that had heaps of heart, thrills and raised ethical issues that truly made you think. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Reeves has elevated this entire world to an astounding level.
The action picks up 10 years after the James Franco-starring movie (Want to know what happened in between? Check out these Dawn of the Planet of the Apes prequels).
The human race is clinging to what’s left of its existence and the apes we met in the first film, led by Andy Serkis as Caesar, have made quite a nice home for themselves in the woods north of San Francisco. Caesar has a wife, an on-the-verge-of-adulthood son and a new baby. Things are blissful.
Then, Reeves has conflict rear its head. Two apes run into a human. In fear, as shown in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer, the man shoots one and that sends the entire village of apes raining down on them like a deluge. The man's human companions also come running -- led by Jason Clarke’s Malcolm and Keri Russell’s Ellie.
After Caesar lets the humans return to their city shelter with the promise they won't return, leaders must decide on a course of action. The human leader, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), has no love lost for the apes. As for Caesar, well it’s complicated.
Two sides are on a collision course, but will they collide and, if so, how?
Clarke and Russell are both so compelling as the voice of reason in a world that has none.
And it’s hard to know where to start and how to ever finish talking about the earth-shattering performance from Serkis as Caesar. With performances such as the one Serkis gives in a motion capture suit as Caesar, the Academy needs to wake up and smell the coffee. This is an Oscar nomination-worthy performance. The nuances and power he brings to the role are extraordinary.
But that also leads us to our next point. The special effects are seamless. Reeves has employed a 3D motion capture technology that can be used on location and the results are astounding.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has action that will blow your mind. But, what sets this film apart from so many of the other summer movies out there is that it has an equal amount of emotion-emitting soul. We forge a connection with not only the human characters as they wrestle with the future and fate of our own race, but also the apes who were thrust into this new world order through no choice of their own.
There is much to discuss in terms of the wider societal commentary laid forth by the film, our Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review can report. That is just another example of how this is not just a great summer movie and this is not just one of the year’s best movies (which it is), this is a motion picture moment that will have those who see it gathering outside afterwards for a discussion.
And frankly, as a person who sees hundreds of movies a year that don’t come close to sparking that kind of response, that is exactly why this writer was so attracted to the medium in the first place.
Watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes online to see how this whole (latest) chapter got started.