“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Movie Review – Now on DVD and Blu-ray

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was a movie that needed a sequel. I wasn’t even too sure if it was going to get it, but it was, thankfully, successful enough to spawn just that. “Rise” told us how it all started and where this extreme intelligence in the ape species came from. It was insightful and gave a perfect introduction for a new story to be erected. The newest installment in the franchise is “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, which explores the after effects of the occurrences within “Rise”. While “Rise” definitely had quite the human element to it, “Dawn” expands upon that and creates a truly compelling and visceral movie going experience.

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Very rarely do you find a sequel that goes above and beyond its predecessor. Such notable films to have done this in cinematic history this are “The Empire Strikes Back”, “The Dark Knight”, “Terminator 2”, and even “Aliens” is touted as an improvement, which I tend to disagree with. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is to that caliber and a film that I could see becoming a sci-fi classic in the near future. Yes, it’s that good.

Beginning ten years after the events of “Rise”, this shows us the current state of our world after the virus killed off almost all of humanity (yes, James Franco is dead), leaving the apes to evolve and build their own civilization without the danger of human control. While the beginning is a bit slow, showing you the ape civilization and eventually the human resistance and the political issues that dwell within both societies, but it’s never uninteresting. It actually gives some very valuable insight into the themes of the movie and a very close to home representation of the modern world. On each side there are two opposing opinion on how to deal with the problem of apes and humans living together: the first is to just go into all-out war and annihilate the other party and the second is to settle things peacefully and live together without conflict. For those who have seen or know of the original “Planet of the Apes”, we, of course, know how the movie will end and on what note, but isn’t it the journey that really matters?

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is, surprisingly, not the least bit predictable. There were roads that I thought it was going to go down, but the film just kept taking sharp turns and leaving me shocked and compelled to see what will occur next. This is mostly thanks to the writing, which was beautifully written. Giving an immense emotional resonance that is evident on both sides of the battlefield make the drama even more impactful and oh, so real. Even though the majority of the characters were CG apes, I found this to be a movie with a very powerful human touch; actually, Caesar the ape was probably the most human character, showing just how smart these apes are really becoming.

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The acting is great throughout the film, but the man who made the biggest impact, the same actor I brought up from “Rise”, was Andy Serkis, the man acting like an ape. He blew me away, even more than his performance in “Rise”, which I think he deserved an Oscar nomination for. His mannerisms are controlled, but not without the sense of hostility due to an apes animalistic instincts that aren’t completely erased from the intelligent ape’s mind just yet. With very strong family values and an incredible sense of courage and the understanding of good and bad, Serkis creates one of the most kick-ass and engaging characters in all of film.

Most films about a predicament such as this only focus on one side, naming them the good guys or whatever. That’s not what “Dawn” does. There is no straight up good side or bad side, but two sides fighting with themselves and eventually with each other due to the opposing opinions within the population and the egos of the “bad guys” on either side. It’s actually, surprisingly, a very politically acute film that offers true insight into war and how the winner or the effects of war isn’t just black and white.

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After “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” even raised the bar that the 1968 “Planet of the Apes” created, I didn’t know how they were going to top it. Same as with “Rise”, I had my doubts about this one and wasn’t even sure if it would be a good movie let alone become an even better movie. Thankfully, it was put into the right hands. Matt Reeves, who has directed such films as “Cloverfied” and the critically acclaimed remake “Let Me In”, directs with an ambitious confidence that is one of a kind. He creates a sequel to the proportions of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Dark Knight” through an astonishingly brutal atmosphere and intelligence that you really don’t see within too many blockbusters these days. What I felt while watching this movie was passion, especially in the scenes of the third act that left me thrilled, exhausted and hungry for more, and that’s exactly what a filmmaker should go for. I really hope that the Academy will put this film into account for such awards as Best Actor and Best Director. Sadly, I highly doubt it will even be suggested.

5 out of 5