86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the follow-up to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and truly Dawn of the Planet of the Apesputs the mesmerizingly talented Andy Serkis in the spotlight that he truly deserves. Serkis reprises his motion-capture role as Caesar, leader of the now highly evolved population of apes. Ten years have passed since the battle of San Francisco. The H5N1 virus, nicknamed the Simian Flu, has killed off most of humanity except for a miniscule group of people immune to the virus. The apes have migrated to the forests and have evolved to such a degree that they have built a civilization that has allowed them to develop an entire culture. Oddly the fantastic score by Michael Giacchino during an early scene where the apes demonstrate a highly advanced hunting technique is reminiscent of the score from 2001 A Space Odyssey that accompanies that film’s apes making an important evolutionary step.
It is this kind of subtext that makes the film so impressive. As the surviving humans realize they are running out of fuel, they conclude that their only hope is repairing a power-generating dam that is smack in the middle of the apes’ new civilization. Fear and paranoia mount on both sides as a stage is set worthy of Shakespeare, Serkis’s character being named Caesar clearly being intentional. Caesar’s memory of compassionate humans causes him to hesitantly permit a group of humans lead by Ellie (Keri Russel) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to repair the dam. Ellie and Malcolm are two ‘Chimp-athetic’ humans, if I may use a phrase coined by Entertainment Weekly’s film critic Chris Nashawaty, but many of the other humans are not including the desperate human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) who will not allow his people to sink back to the uncivilized life they had before setting up their current compound in San Francisco.
Of course, misplaced trust and a few bad apples on both sides threaten the safety and livelihood of both man and ape resulting in the threat of another all-out war. Caesar and Malcolm are tasked with the mission of trying to maintain peace.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an incredibly good looking movie and one with momentary glances of brilliance. Most of the film’s success can be attributed to the expressive Andy Serkis, however. Never in all of his underrated performances has he given a performance so emotional, raw, and empathetic. Caesar is an ape of few words, regardless of his ability to speak, and his face (and consequently Serkis’s) communicates complex emotions unlike anything we have seen him convey before. If Tilda Swinton’s performance in Snowpiercer starts the Summer Oscar conversation, Serkis’s totally immersive performance as Caesar certainly adds to it.
If you’re looking for something to wash that bad taste Transformers: Age of Extinction left in your mouth, then a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is just the thing. A-
137 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2014
This is one of 2014's best movies so far. The story is original and creative, bringing more potential to characters from the first film. Every ape in the movie looks astoundingly real, with no flaws. Acting is solid, but some characters seem to be a bit flat. The music is not used throughout the movie as much as others, but brings great aid to some very emotional scenes. I enjoyed the movie thoroughly from start to end, and there weren't any painfully slow or dull moments. As for the rating, this movie is very violent, and contains one f bomb. If you liked the first film, you'll probably enjoy this one even more. One of my new favorites.
145 of 175 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2014
Let me just say that this movie is over 2 hours long and I saw it on a 90-degree day where the air conditioner in the movie theater broke. I was sweating, other people were sweating, the theater was starting to smell like a locker room, yet I still stayed for the entire movie. Why? Because it was awesome.
This movie picks up about 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you're like me, for the first few minutes you'll wonder if you've mistakenly wandered into the bargain movie theater and you're watching Contagion because the movie starts with all of these news clips reporting details about a massive quarantine and all these deaths due to something like the swine flu. Don't worry - it's the right movie. Basically, the human population is getting wiped out from disease that was spread by the apes that were getting tested on in the first movie. The movie finally starts about 10 years later and Caesar is wondering if there are any humans left, because they haven't seen any sign of them in 2 years. Proving Caesar has incredible timing, his question is answered when his son and another ape run into a group of hikers in the wood.. Long story short - they're trying to get to some giant dam or something to set up a power source for this group of humans that have survived. They need the power for survival, and also to communicate with the rest of the world to see who else has survived the epidemic. The problem: the apes don't trust humans and humans don't trust the apes.
The rest of the movie is pretty much apes and humans tiptoeing around each other because they don't trust the other after the events of the first movie, both parties getting along to the point of not wanting to start a huge war, until Koba goes and starts trouble. After that, all chaos breaks loose. I thought the movie was really action-packed and intense at parts. I loved it! Even the scenes I giggled at during the previews (where the apes were riding on horses and looking ridiculous) ended up being pretty good in the actual movie.
69 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2014
Picking up "six winters" after RISE, DAWN offers us a post-apocalyptic world where only pockets of humans survive - and, of course, other lifeforms, including talking, hyperintelligent apes with a serious bone to pick with humanity. With DAWN, there's a new director, a new star, and plenty of new ideas. It's a very different movie than RISE, but that's not a bad thing; overall, the movie largely makes up for its lack of the fun, humor, and satirical cleverness that helped make RISE so enjoyable by offering a more intelligent, nuanced and explorative film.
Right off the bat, we understand we're dealing with a darker world. It's not exactly clear what happened to humanity, although we know that "Simian Flu" played at least some part in the near-apocalypse. With only pockets of surviving humans, and an expanding, bitter ape population, the tone of the movie is set: this is a darker APES, and the stakes are higher. Whereas RISE dealt with the perils and promises of science in advancing human dominance (and ultimately, perhaps, in stopping it), DAWN takes on heavier, harsher themes of war, territorial aggression, paranoia, oppression, torture, and revolution. Naturally, it's not as fun of a ride as RISE, but for good reason.
This movie handles its more earnest tone quite respectably. To the extent that we treat Caesar and his apes as humans or commentaries on humanity, we find parallels with their struggle in the plight of the American Indian, the slave, the tortured detainee, and, basically, any oppressed, subjugated, or otherwise disrespected group. Intriguingly, we also see the apes becoming exactly what they had escaped from and fought against in the first place. It's an old story, but it's done well here.
The cast brings the material to life (and, indeed, elevates it) quite well. Jason Clarke handles the burden of lead actor with admirable ease. Gary Oldman makes you feel for a man who's got it in his heart to kill each and every damn ape on the planet if it'll save his friends and followers. The apes themselves, led by Andy Serkis, provide some of the best and most cinematic performances. Watching one ape fatally throw another off a foyer for refusing to kill a human is almost too impactful for words. It's scary, badass, and intriguing. It works.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES continues where its predecessor left off in finding something fresh, engaging and worthwhile in a silly ol' b-movie sci-fi franchise. It feels less like a sequel to RISE and more like an expansion of the tone and universe this property is capable of exploring. It's an excellent film.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2015
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was great, especially the first half, so I had high expectations for this movie. However, "Dawn" was disappointing, other than the special effects. If you like "action" movies you might rate this higher (there's some shooting and explosions, etc.), but for character development and plot, this was weak. Even the music was lacking here, compared with "Rise" which had great music. With some tweaks, "Dawn" could have been a lot better than it is, but ultimately it came up very short, very unsatisfying for those who enjoyed "Rise". For example, in this movie Koba is a main character, sometimes hero, sometimes villain - but it's not entirely clear why his villainous side seems to take over. And Caesar's return to his former home was clumsily done, could have been a lot more interesting. In this movie, Caesar is supposed to connect with Malcolm almost as strongly as he does with Will and Charles from the first movie, but it seems forced and less believable. And so on. Ultimately it's nice to see Caesar from "Rise" here, but it's almost like one of those "reunion" movies such as "Return to Mayberry", nice to see those old characters, but it's greatly lacking overall. Hopefully the next of this series will be better.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
There may be spoilers. Set 10 years from the time of the "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011), the known world has been essentially destroyed with the virus that was passed on by inoculated apes, killing most of the World's population. The apes have evolved - at least those in the San Francisco area - and show not only true emotions but rudimentary speech. Led by the now fully grown and fully in charge Caesar (Andy Serkis, who created the character in 2011 film), the apes have established a habitat suitable for their species, north of the city in Mt. Tamalpais.
When a pair of apes on a hunting mission come across a human (Kirk Acevedo), with a gun of course, things get a bit more complicated. It appears that some humans were immune from the original disease and now inhabit a tower in the city center. A small crew had been looking for a water powered electrical facility. Their group is led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The expected confrontation comes but the humans are surprised that Caesar just kicks them out even though one of their own was mortally wounded.
Malcolm and his party return to the city. The governor of the humans, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) begins to prep for a future event by arming the human citizenry with military weapons. Malcolm convinces Dreyfus to give him time to reason with the apes in order to get to the power plant without a major conflict. This appears to work as Caesar allows the small group to work as long as their weapons are destroyed. Alas, like civilization today, there are individuals in each group, believing that conflict is better served by warfare.
What makes the film substantial is the excellent interaction between the two sides. The humanity that has leaked into the apes shows itself with compassion as well as an aggressive need to fight...and kill. The humans, in fact, are the same, thus the not so veiled comparisons. It should also be noted that director Matt Reeves and his special effects crew have upped the motion-capture bar beyond the original "Rise," "Avatar" and others. Check out the extreme close-ups of the apes. Serkis and Toby Kebbell ("East") are also the best performers in the film. Kebbell's Koba presents the challenge to Caesar's authority which becomes vicious and very human-like. While the film focuses on the interaction between the species, there are also some excellent battles that eventually ensue. While I enjoyed the "Rise" film, this one is better entertainment on all levels. Highly recommended.
(BLU RAY 3-D UPDATE) Feb. 28, 2015
It was time to take another look at this second of three films which provided a reboot of the "Planet of the Apes" saga which began in 1967. This time, I'll be looking primarily at the 3-D Blu ray version which is available on one of two discs. The second disc includes the 2-D version and a host of bonus material. I won't rehash the film itself, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed it just as much as when I first saw it on a huge screen.
The film has many dark scenes throughout which would seem to pose quite a challenge to recreate in 3-D. For the early parts of the film the 3-D is very restrained, although it was used very effectively in the daylight scenes deep into a wooded area near San Francisco. The overall detail of the film is excellent in this 1080p video resolution disc(s). The transfer maintains the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. While the early portions are restrained, the 3-D is used to great effect in the final act as the apes battle the humans in their "tower" home. While this isn't the best use of 3-D that I've seen, it is certainly serviceable and entirely enjoyable.
There are no compromises necessary in the stunning DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. It rumbles the subs with astounding galloping horses and deer, not to mention the closing battle. The entire film fills the surrounds with plenty of ambient and directional effects. Just terrific audio, even in 5.1. There are subtitles available in English SDH and Spanish. Here are the extras:
*Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by director Matt Reeves
*Journey to Dawn
*Humans and Apes: The Cast of Dawn
*The World of Dawn
*The Ape Community
*Move Like an Ape: An Artist s Artist's Medium
*Weta and Dawn
*The Fight for a New Dawn
*Audio Commentary by Matt Reeves
*Andy Serkis: Rediscovering Caesar
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2014
This is my first exposure to the Planet of the Apes franchise, and this latest installment in the franchise (which is essentially configured as the prelude to the series) is fun and thrilling. While the story can be a bit confused at times, the movie-making is superb.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2014
Made me feel like I was a kid again. I always liked movies that have cities and other structures in some form of neglect from being abandoned by people. I liked the Muir Woods sign and the HWY 101 sign. The gas station was okay too until they got the power back on. It's hard to believe that it was up and running with all the lights, spinning ball sign, and music playing when the power went out. The power station itself looked like it had been abandoned for decades, and would have needed a lot more work to start producing electricity again. The power lines are all intact after years of no service? As for the story, well I guess there could be an ape that develops human intellect from taking some new concoction, but shouldn't it have been tested on rodents first? But then smart rats wouldn't be able to hold a machine gun, at least not in their own. Maybe a team of rats could have operated each weapon, but that would be more comical than scary. It's a good movie for a day off if you have nothing else to do, and don't put too much thought into it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2014
Entertaining. A movie that doesn't feel like it was churned out of the holly wood movie mill *cough* Hercules *cough*. It is another movie however where you need to put your analytical side away. It doesn't make sense when you try and make sense of it. Initially the experiment was to just make people smarter where chimps were the test subjects, not rearrange their genetic structure so they'll want to stand all the time and eventually develop vocal chords. It's a play on evolution more or less.
21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Of all the cheesy canons of film history to reboot and retool for the 21st century, who would have ever thought that “Planet of the Apes” would become one of the best? Remember, the 1968 original is where we get the classic Charlton Heston line "Take your stinking paws off of me, you damned dirty ape." In 2001, Tim Burton attempted to revive the series, but he did a remake of the original starring Heston and Roddy McDowall. Burton’s stars? Mark Wahlberg and Tim Roth are pretty even replacements for the stars of the original. It wasn’t that successful for two reasons. 1. It was a remake of the cheesy original using slightly better special effects. 2. It didn’t have Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit.
In 2011, Fox decided to reboot the series with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” starring James Franco as a scientist looking for a cure for Alzheimer’s to help cure his father (John Lithgow). He brings Caesar (Andy Serkis), one of the test apes at the lab, home and they form a very unique bond as Caesar learns to communicate with sign language and through speech. Then everything goes wrong. It was an engaging blockbuster made even better by Serkis’ performance.
Now, three years later, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” arrives at the multiplex.
Directed by Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”, “Let Me In”), the story picks up ten years later. The human race has been decimated by the 'Simian Flu' and the apes have been multiplying, teaching themselves how to communicate, and multiplying. A colony of humans has holed up in the Ferry Building in run-down, overgrown San Francisco. A group of them venture into the forest and Carver (Kirk Acevedo), who has wandered ahead, is surprised by a group of apes. He shoots Ash, the son of Koba (Toby Kebbell, “The Escape Artist) and starts a confrontation. Caesar runs to the sight and confronts the rest of the humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Lawless”, “The Great Gatsby”) and they reach an uneasy truce. When the humans return to the city, their leader, Dreyfuss (Gary Oldman) is very worried about a possible attack. But Malcom talks them out of any action and asks them to let him travel back and talk to the apes about letting them get a power station at a dam running again. Their power supply is running out, so this new generator could mean their survival. Each group has a voice of dissent causing problems; Koba doesn’t share Caesar’s tolerance for humans, he was tested on and scarred by humans, but Caesar is their leader, so he acquiesces, for a while. Dreyfus doesn’t share Malcom’s trust for the apes and would prefer to wipe them out. But he allows Malcolm to try things his way. Both are working towards conflict as their more level-headed counterparts try to resolve their differences.
Computer-generated-imagery (or CGI) has taken over pretty much every film you might see at the multiplex. This advancement allows filmmakers to create new worlds or to recreate worlds of the past. Anything someone can imagine can now be created for a film. The key is how well it is created. In so many films, CGI is used to create a monster, a dragon or scary creature, something meant to shock and scare us near the end of a film. CGI works less well when it is used for the majority of the film, creating landscapes, buildings, characters, special effects. Our eyes need something real to focus on, to trick us into believing the CGI is real. If everything is created artificially, something usually falters and our eye finds it. Unless the work is really, really good.
In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, the work is really, really good. Every ape character, and there are many, is created by an actor in a motion capture suit. They basically act the role wearing motion capture suits, in front of a camera. The special effects people take that footage and combine it with CGI, the animation matching various points on the suits to create more realistic characters. In the last few years, this technology has advanced to help create some truly remarkable creations in some really memorable films.
And pretty much all of these characters are played by Andy Serkis. The Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “King Kong”, a character in the upcoming “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, a character in the upcoming “Star Wars” film. Let’s face it. The Gollum is the character everyone remembers and quotes. “King Kong” doesn't work unless we believe in the performance of a giant ape. All of these are accomplished by Andy Serkis and a bunch of special effects geeks. In “Rise” and now “Dawn”, he makes Caesar come alive, he makes him a real, viable character in these narratives. It really feels like they trained a real ape and gave him a script. But of course that didn’t happen. One of the advances made in this technology is they are able to capture facial movements, allowing the actors to add this to their performance, removing another layer of artificiality, giving their characters a higher degree of authenticity. Serkis does an amazing job bringing Caesar to life. We see and feel every emotion the ape feels, every interaction he has with his fellow apes and with the humans, he seems real. He is Caesar.
As the head of the pack, Caesar has a lot to contend with- humans, who are pretty much distrusted by all apes, dissent within the pack, family sickness. But he can never show weakness and that is the first thing you realize about Caesar; he is strong, very strong. But his mind is always working. If he trusts Malcolm, will Koba and the others perceive this as a weakness and try to take over? If he doesn’t show any kindness to the humans, will they immediately attack? Caesar seems to consider every action he and his pack make, weighing whether it will lead them closer to an all-out conflict with the humans. He doesn’t seem to want war and tries to do everything he can to prevent it.
It is really an extraordinary performance. It is because of Serkis’ work we are so willing to accept this world created by director Reeves and all of his technicians. And Serkis is receiving a lot of attention for his work in this capacity, he seems to be the innovator, the Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Ray Harryhausen, or James Cameron of this new technology.
But Serkis is not the only actor playing an ape. Toby Krebbel (a very bad human being in “The Escape Artist”) plays Koba, the ape who constantly challenges Caesar. He is a good villain and the performance is worthy of any not enhanced by CGI. Judy Greer plays Caesar’s wife Cornelia. And other actors play different apes in the group, some of whom support Caesar, some don’t.
The actors playing human roles are good, but each is a little flat, a little one-dimensional. Malcolm, as played by Jason Clarke, is the good guy. He only wants to work out a deal with the apes so they can get to the dam and get the power plant running. He is only ever good or caring. Given what he has gone through in the last decade, you might expect a least a glimmer of darkness. Keri Russell plays Ellie, a former doctor who now lives with Malcom and his son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Road”). Kirk Acevedo plays Carver, who basically starts all of the confrontations because he is one of those ‘shoot first, figure things out later’ types. Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus who is meant to be the human version of Caesar. While he is less interested in maintaining the peace, you can see that he is frightened by these genetically evolved apes and wants to try to exert the human’s perceived superiority with the cache of firearms they control. Oldman is good, but he doesn't convey the complexity of Serkis' ape counterpart.
And that is really astonishing. The actors playing humans are less effective than the work from the actors who have to deal with a bunch of technical restrictions and gadgetry. There was a time, very recently, when that would not have been the case and I would be criticizing the work of the CGI characters for not being human enough.
There are some moments of interaction between apes and humans, both good and bad. An orangutan named Maurice is the teacher to the younger apes. At one point, he ventures to the human’s campsite and shares a moment with Alexander. Later, Koba and two of his followers, discover the humans testing a cache of weapons at Ft. Point. Malcolm and Ellie venture into the ape compound and when Ellie realizes Cornelia is sick she offers to help with some medicine.
Each of these films is being used to set-up the next. The original series ran for five films and spawned a television series and then a series of television movies. “Dawn” ends with a brief scene setting up the next film. In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, there is a brief shot of a news program following the launch of the Icarus. This is the name of the ship Charlton Heston’s character is on when it lands on the “Planet of the Apes”. I would guess that there are probably two more films planned before the Icarus returns to Earth. They are already floating internet stories about the return of the Icarus, but it seems that the set-up of the next film would be before this spaceship returns to Earth.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is an example of what all the other filmmakers want to achieve when they make these remakes and reboots. A film that makes people forget about the original because it is so darned good.