Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Cast:
Andy Serkis as Caesar
Jason Clarke as Malcolm
Gary Oldman as Dreyfus
Keri Russell as Ellie
Toby Kebbell as Koba
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Alexander
Kirk Acevedo as Carver
Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes
Terry Notary as Rocket
Karin Konoval as Maurice
Judy Greer as Cornelia
Jon Eyez as Foster
Enrique Murciano as Kemp
Doc Shaw as Ash
Lee Ross as Grey

Directed by Matt Reeves

Summary:
If you liked the previous film, then you’ll enjoy “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell give amazing performances and prove that CG characters can be just as engaging as human ones.

Story:
Years after “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” Caesar and the other apes have formed their own civilization. They have homes, families, laws, and their own newly-created culture. Caesar himself has a wife and two sons. It has been years since they last saw a human and they begin to wonder if there are any left in the world.

All of that changes one day when they run across a group of humans led by Malcolm. It turns out that a small group of human survivors have lived through the virus that wiped out mankind and now they are living in the remains of San Francisco. Malcolm and the other humans have ventured into the apes’ territory in an attempt to restart power to the city from a hydroelectric dam.

Needless to say, the apes want nothing to do with the humans. In fact, Koba wants to wipe them out entirely. And the humans are fearful of the talking apes as well. Thus Caesar and Malcolm find themselves in a delicate balance between the two civilizations that could tip into all-out war.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.

What Worked:
Simply put, if you liked the previous film, you’re going to enjoy “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” The things that made the previous film so impressive are still in effect here, yet they manage to take the film in a whole new post-apocalyptic direction.

As you would expect, the MVPs of the film are Andy Serkis and Weta. The ape animation is absolutely stunning. While the previous film had a few spotty CG moments, this CG is completely convincing. You often think you’re watching a real talking ape. To hammer home the quality animation, the opening scene starts out with an extreme close-up in which you see every hair and detail on Caesar’s face. But the animation would be nothing without Serkis’ performance. He continues to bring heart and soul to the character. You see how he’s changed since the first film as a leader, a father, and a husband. You feel his anger and fear of the humans. Serkis does a fantastic job bringing depth and emotion to this CG character.

While Serkis has been getting much of the praise, Toby Kebbell deserves equal praise in his role as Koba. He’s easily one of the best movie villains to appear on screen in a long time. He’s sympathetic, yet he’s clearly in the wrong. He starts out as a friend, but his old feelings of hatred towards the humans twist him into a killer. And if you thought Darth Vader or the Joker were scary, you’ve never seen a one-eyed ape on horseback with two machine guns blazing. That, my friend, is scary. Kebbell gives a complex performance that is every bit as impressive as Serkis’.

While the humans all have good performances, it’s really the apes that steal the show. That being said, Gary Oldman stands out as Dreyfus. I kept expecting them to make him a cartoon villain that hates the apes, but I have to say that every decision his character makes is one that you or I might make if placed in the same situation. He’s no villain. But he’s not in the film as much as you might expect.

If you’re a fan of the original “Planet of the Apes” series, you’ll like all of the ways that they continue to nod to those films. Michael Giacchino’s score is quite impressive and has numerous cues from the old music. As soon as you hear bongo drums, you’re transported back to the ’60s and ’70s. We also see the apes with guns on horseback parading through the post-apocalyptic ruins of cities. It’s quite a bit of fun for old fans while being something entire new to young fans.

What Didn’t Work:
Many of the early reviews of this film were heaping praise on it. While I really did enjoy it, I felt like it was a little overhyped. In part it was because the story played out exactly how you might expect. I would not say there were any major twists or turns that were unexpected. That prevented me from giving it a rating higher than the good one I gave it.

I also saw this film in 3D and it really wasn’t noticeable until the finale when there is a major battle on top of a tower. The 3D helps emphasize the height they are at and the jeopardy the characters are in, but beside that, I’m not sure it’s worth the extra expense.

The Bottom Line:
Overall, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a great addition to the series and I look forward to seeing what happens next. It’s worth checking out in theaters and one of the best movies of the 2014 summer.

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