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Film Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

3 min read

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the third installment in the new series that began with 2001’s Planet of the Apes, and 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  After more than a decade since the first film, Dawn is a rare example of a franchise that actually gets better with each installment. The story takes place several years after the man-made “simian flu” has wiped out most of the human population, and Ceasar is living relatively peacefully with his ape tribe in a wooded area north of San Francisco. Things are fine until an immune band of humans ventures out of their safe haven in the decaying city in order to try and restore power production from a dam and the two tribes, ape and human, become entwined in conflict.  They appear to reach a peaceful understanding, but forces from both sides undermine the fragile truce and all-out war breaks out, culminating in a thrilling climax.

Dawn’s fantastic script strikes the right balance between action and dialogue. The compelling storyline is more emotional and very relevant in that it explores two different “races” (species) that can’t let old wounds heal and have a very strong distrust for each other.  They walk a tightrope and each tribe has a key ally, as well as a key dissenter, that eventually causes the whole thing to unravel, all because of fear and prejudice.  The script is delivered by a very talented cast that includes Gary Oldman, Jason Clark (Zero Dark Thirty), Kerry Russell, and of course Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings trilogy) who plays Caesar.  My only criticism would be that the Carver character (human) was annoying and too contrived, and it was a bit too heavy handed in the way the character was used to control the story.  Other than that, the performances were spot on.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), has assembled an incredible team, and the artistry and production design of the post-apocalyptic world is rich and beautiful.  Weta Digital, the New Zealand visual effects team behind The Lord of The Rings trilogy and Man of Steel, has yet again set the bar higher and created a new standard for visual effects with Dawn, and the digital ape characters, especially Caesar, are incredible.  Combined with the unique acting talents of Andy Serkis, the lead ape character is incredibly subtle, detailed, and emotive. You quickly forget that you are watching cgi characters at all, as they blend in seamlessly with the film and live characters.  It is truly amazing, and Weta Digital does this better than anyone.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is by far the best film in the series yet.  A great script, production design and groundbreaking digital effects make it one of the best big-budget summer blockbusters of 2014. And with Matt Reeves now slated to direct the next sequel, I have high hopes that the best is yet to come.

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