In 1968, the first installment of the original Planet of the Apes franchise was released. That film not only was groundbreaking in makeup and production design but provided cinephiles with one of the of the most memorable twists in film history as Charlton Heston’s character George Taylor, at the conclusion of the film, comes to the realization that he is not on a planet of apes, but Earth itself as the camera pans away and Taylor damns “us all to hell” and with this, a classic film moment was complete.
As we fast forward to 2011, the Planet of the Apes has been rebooted once again, only this time successfully as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was not only a pleasant surprise but was able to flesh out the ape characters better than the original franchise ever attempted to. The film’s sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes not only one-upped Rise but became the best entry in any of the reboots and original films in the franchise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ opening credits effectively opens with the simian flu that began to take over at the conclusion of Rise and has now spread over the country. With the usage of actual press conferences from Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama, director Matt Reeves is able to incorporate a realism to the opening that sets the tone for the rest of the film.
As the opening credits fade to black, it cuts to a breathtaking shot of Caesar, which first appeared in the trailers of the film, looking quite different from the last time we saw him. He is covered in war paint and quite frankly looking bad ass and in charge. With the use of an effective score reminiscent of the opening montage in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, the opening sequence in Dawn chronicles the apes led by Caesar on a hunting exposition so realistic and added so beautifully by the score that it left me speechless.
While it may be blasphemous to some that I have called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes the best in the original and rebooted franchise, I look at the development of the apes within this film and it tops any apes in previous installments as you grow to care for some of these apes. From Maurice’s old wise man persona as teacher of the young apes to Caesar’s role as a leader and father figure to all the apes, all the way down to Caesar’s dumb witted son, who at times as manipulated by Koba, you cheer on his son and hope that he can see Koba’s evil mindset.
This film also has its way of bringing a disdain for a certain ape character, Koba. From his introduction in Rise, Koba has always been the outsider and at times sketchy and through his actions in the film, you grow to disdain him. If there is a negative aspect to this film, it is that the human characters are not as fleshed out and developed as much as I would have liked. We hear of their back stories but in such small doses that it becomes hard to care for them.
The film is also politically loaded. In 2014, gun control in the United States was and continues to be a large issue in this country and Dawn made sure to address it. Both sides of the spectrum are touched upon as Caesar is anti-gun while the humans have no issue using firearms if needed or provoked, which culminates in a tension-filled battle between man and ape.
One of the best messages in the film is shared responsibility. We are often creatures of “passing the buck.” However, in Dawn, both ape and man take equal responsibility for recklessness,
“I always think ape better than human. I see now how like them we are.”
No Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review can be complete without talking about the brilliance of Andy Serkis. From his work in The Lord of the Rings, and his two entries in the Apes franchise, Serkis has shown damn near perfection in his performances and it’s about time the Academy rewards him for it. With the finale in the Apes franchise opening this weekend, Andy Serkis’s performance should be looked at and nominated in this new era of Oscar voters.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a wonderful rollercoaster ride of emotions. A bleak look into a world made of Apes that remains humanistic much like that of The Empire Strikes Back. It sets up what looks to be a memorable final chapter in 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes.
Reel Talk gives Dawn For The Planet Of The Apes 3.5 reels