In 2011, Director Rupert Wyatt rebooted the Planet of the Apes franchise with the excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes, featuring wonderful performances by James Franco, Andy Serkis, and John Lithgow. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Franco and Lithgow are gone, and the movie suffers a bit from their absence. But the new film, directed by Matt Reeves, is full of action and Serkis again is outstanding as the leader of the apes, Caesar.
Most critics and fans like the action-packed Dawn, and I did too, although I do not think it matched the first in the new series. The film picks up ten years after Rise, when most humans have died from a virus. Some of the remaining humans struggle to survive, while the apes, still led by Caesar, work to build their own civilization. Not surprisingly, the two groups come in contact. Both the humans and the apes have individuals who want war and individuals who want peace. The film builds to a dramatic and action-filled conclusion that I will not ruin here. In light of current debates about violence among countries, the film also is a gentle reminder about how difficult it is to protect a fragile peace.
Serkis gives an excellent emotional performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Judy Greer does a great job as Caesar’s wife, Cornelia, whose name is likely a reference to the original series (making me wonder if their son “Blue Eyes” — played by Nick Thurston — has the real name of Cornelius?). This time around, the human characters are less interesting, although Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell do a good job with the roles they have.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a dark movie in more than one way. Besides the storyline, the action takes place on cloudy days and at night. While the CGI effects were fantastic, because 3D glasses make movies even darker and I was not blown away by the 3D effects, I would have preferred to see the film in regular 2D so I would not have had to squint to make out the action in the dark. But I will leave it to you to determine how important 3D is to you.
Finally, the original movie franchise began by landing Charlton Heston in the middle of the established ape world (as the Tim Burton reboot similarly did with Mark Wahlberg) and then later films took us back to the origin stories. But this new franchise opts for more of a chronological version in the way the films are being produced, starting at the beginning of the timeline. Thus, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was comparable to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) of the original series, while the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is comparable to Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), which was the last one made in the original series and is generally seen as the weakest. Thus, considering the new very good movie is a reinterpretation of the weakest of the original franchise, I am especially looking forward to seeing how this new franchise develops with future movies. For a look at how the movies fit into a timeline, check out the io9 website.
Conclusion? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed sequel and a worthy continuation of the story that began in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you liked the first film, you will want to see this sequel. If you have not yet seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you can still start with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without being lost, but you might want to watch the superior first film first.
What did you think of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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