The summer blockbusters keep rolling on, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has seemingly climbed to the top of everyone’s most anticipated list for 2014. Though, it isn’t a big surprise. The first installment of the rebooted franchise took everyone by surprise, and created a refreshed storyline that laid the groundwork for a sequel. I had the opportunity to catch AMC Theatres’ double feature of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and the sequel, which included a collectible poster and lanyard.
Rise follows James Franco’s character Will, a scientist trying develop a cure for Alzheimer’s and other human illnesses. As a result of testing on chimpanzees, Caesar is born with almost instantaneous super-intelligence and a self-awareness that grows throughout the film. His internal conflict lies in his connection to Will and his human family, and the leadership he creates within the ape community. This dilemma also plagues Caesar in Dawn. The movie ends with humanity facing the threat of an epidemic, and the apes fleeing into the woods. This is where the next film picks up.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes jumps ahead 10 years, with the apes living in a somewhat civilized manner with simple laws and language beginning to develop. Caesar has fully embraced his position as leader of this newfound community of apes and has started a family. The human cast is led by Jason Clarke’s (Zero Dark Thirty) character Malcom, alongside Gary Oldman (Dark Knight Rises) and Keri Russell (Felicity). All is peaceful in both camps until a heated encounter between the two groups sets them on a bloody course to see which species will survive.
While Micheal Bay proved with Age of Extinction that sequels aren’t usually better, the writers and director of Dawn show that they can be. Their carefully-crafted world is not only believable, but also gracefully transitions from film to film. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Golem) has made tremendous leaps in the field of motion capture, and his performance of Caesar in Dawn proves that. Serkis captures the emotion and strength needed to bring Caesar to life, and the result is remarkable. At the wave of a hand Caesar silences a horde of angry apes, and by simply standing upright he imposes his dominance over apes and humans alike. Plus, there’s apes on horses… What’s not awesome about that?
Dawn is a beautifully-crafted, action-packed film that doesn’t miss a beat. From start to finish, the audience will be willingly led into the post-apocalyptic world of the apes and enjoy the immersive experience that Matt Reeves has created. While I would consider this one of the best movies of 2014, I think that there could have been some improvement. Jason Clarke and the human cast do a great job of connecting with the audience on an emotional level, but the lack of character backstory left me wondering what happened in between the two films. And the underlying tensions that begin to unfold throughout the movie is something we’ve all seen before, though the predictability is not bothersome.
Overall, Dawn is an awesome movie that shows the heart and strength of a leader in the midst of dire circumstances. While the film resolves its conflict by the last act, one may leave the theatre wondering: what happens next?
Catch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in theaters now!