The Movie Review: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

It was Earth all along! This may have been one of the biggest twists in a movie when this revelation was set in stone for Charlton Heston in the 1968 classic, “Planet of the Apes.”

But truth to be told, I’ve never seen any of the original movies. My first exposure to series was actually in 2001 when I was taken to the remake, directed by Tim Burton. As it was, I didn’t see much within that movie and I barely remember much of it at all (showing how forgettable it was). So if Fox wanted to continue the troubled franchise, then they knew not to remake what was fine already.

Jump to 2011 when “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was released. Like plenty of people, I thought that this was going to bomb. But like all film critics, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised then bitterly disappointed. The movie proved to be smart, well written, and even showcased some great effects, giving a motion-captured ape the lead role.

It was by no means a masterpiece, but it was a fun new introduction to the Planet of the Apes universe without repeating much (except for a line reference or two that I snickered at). “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” continues the story, creating a rare sequel that’s better than its predecessor. 

The previous film left off with the ALZ-113 virus that made the apes smarter while also being the weapon that kills most of humanity, collapsing the world’s governments and civilization as we know them.

It’s now 2016 where people that were genetically immune have taken home in a now desolate San Francisco, lead by Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman). In the Muir Woods, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) has lead his fellow community of Apes into a new way of life, thinking that all the humans have gone.

Dreyfus wants to wage war with the apes to gain control of a hydraulic dam that’s in their territory. A young father named Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) convinces Dreyfus to give him three days to try and gain peace with the apes.

He leads a small group of people into ape territory and seems to do well for a while to convince the apes to help them. The peace is short lived when another ape, Koba, who has held a grudge against humanity due to being abusively tested on, burns the ape community and blames it on the humans. Without saying what happens to Caesar, the apes retaliate by returning to San Francisco to start the war against humanity.

Not only has “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” surprised me with how much better it was from the first one, it also made me excited with the prospect of what another follow up could do. Both Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman seem settled into playing post-apocalyptic survivors, both looking torn from struggle, but with a desire to survive.  Let’s face it though, with this kind of movie, the apes are the real stars.

Its hard to believe that no real animals were used in this movie. Weta studios (the same team behind the CGI in the Lord of the Rings movies) took what was successful from the first movie and built upon them. You can see every hair on their bodies, the wrinkles on their eyes, the scars on their faces, and even the right texture that makes their skin liable to touch. The special effects are unbelievably fantastic, simple as that.

Watching them move like real animals made me question if this film will make a mark on special effects just as “Star Wars,” Ghostbusters” and Titanic” did. 

I’ll give this five Caesar apes out of five. This new dawn simply proves that these apes rule. This is a fun blockbuster that deserves to be successful.

Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at mastermindfilmproductions.com.

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