Not too long ago, I reviewed the entire Planet of the Apes franchise starting with the 1968 original and covered all of the sequels, including Tim Burton’s remake and what I would consider the “official” reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I considered the 2011 film to be the best in the series since the original film was released over 40 years ago. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and when I say it can easily be considered one of the best sequels ever made, I mean it. Not only does it build on what was presented in the first film, it completely enhances the entire experience in every way possible.
After the events of the first film, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) are living in the redwoods outside of San Francisco and the human population have mostly died off from the ALZ-113 Virus, now known as the “Simian Flu.” Not all humans are dead, however, with a prominent group of uninfected living in San Francisco and led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The group has been doing well, although the fuel power that they are living on won’t last too much longer which forces them to travel into the woods to reactivate a dam that powered part of the city in the past. The humans, led by Malcolm, soon encounter the apes who eventually decide to help them in their mission. This peace and understanding doesn’t last long when members of both sides threaten to shatter everything that has been achieved, the guiltiest party being Caesar’s right hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell).
What I love most about these movies is that they were first made in a time when the social commentary that was being discussed worked very well and had a positive impact on the way people were thinking. That’s also part of the reason why I think Tim Burton’s movie failed as much as it did. There was no real discussion to be had. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the social commentary is back and more relevant than ever. This film is one of the most intelligent summer blockbusters I have seen in a while. It may be a story about man vs ape, but it’s also a story about how prejudice and our preconceived notions and hatreds are enough to spark violence on any scale. This may not be anything new, but in light of recent events all around the world, it’s a message that needs to be heard.
It may not come as a surprise to most people when I say that Andy Serkis is one of the best actors in the business. It annoys me to no end that he hasn’t even been nominated for any Academy Awards for his performances. I’ve heard arguments that he isn’t “actually in the movie” which is complete bullshit and here’s why. Every movement and emotion of Caesar’s that you see is all Andy Serkis. He is acting in this movie and deserves the proper recognition. That goes for a lot of the other actors too, mainly Toby Kebbell as Koba and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes. The human cast are all fine too, but the real emotion lies with the apes. Even Gary Oldman is completely outdone by the motion capture actors.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also the best looking movie you’re going to see all summer and possibly the entire year. The special effects in this movie are absolutely perfect. One scene in particular shows Koba in a close up and it was unbelievable how real it looked. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie isn’t all about the special effects, and the way the story is written confirms that. The dialogue and narrative are so tightly written there’s not a scene out of place. Every shot of every scene has a purpose so the movie feels just as long as it needs to be. It’s a perfect combination of using special effects in order to enhance the story telling.
I wasn’t surprised by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at least not too much. I knew that this movie was going to meet and then exceed my expectations, which it did. Everything from the performances to the effects to the intelligence of the story mixed together to make the perfect summer blockbuster. This did exactly what a sequel should do: build on its predecessor and ultimately be a better film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this piece of remarkable film making, get your ass in gear and head to the theaters immediately.