Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – movie review

by Alon Weiss

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Those maniacs! They did it! They really made a sequel!! And this… is a very very good thing.

The most articulate and prolific chimpanzee to grace the big screen, Caesar is back and rallying more apes than ever in the follow up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The first installment of this reboot proved to be a visionary and inspiring re-imagining of an iconic pop culture film series, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues this tradition in fine form.

Before I continue I should preface; that while I will keep my review for this movie as spoiler free as I can, there will likely be some spoilers referencing the first movie for those who haven’t already seen it. Set 10 years after the events of Rise, Dawn depicts a world collapsing into decay, as nature steadily overtakes the concrete canyons of the old civilization, in the aftermath of the diminished human population.

Though not all succumbed to the viral outbreak, the few survivors who have retained their intelligence have formed together in enclaves, doing what they can to cling to the vestiges of the world they lost. Meanwhile the apes are flourishing as the numbers of the new advanced species grows by the year. Yet neither have had contact with each other for several years and the apes are content to keep to themselves. Until a random encounter brings the two factions clashing and spiraling into perilous events.

The story and setting are all brought to life by accomplished performances all around, both with the human cast including Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Keri Russel, as well as the apes. While Caesar’s vocabulary is considerably expanded, it should be noted what a remarkable feat was achieved in Rise, the technical marvel in creating artificial primates so convincingly expressive, such that complex feelings could be conveyed without words at all. And this amazing craft of virtual performance is delivered just as effectively and vividly in the sequel, where Andy Serkis brings his A game.

Even with all the conflict between the two disparate factions, where mistrust brews under a strained truce, the heart of the drama revolves around family. The emotional ties with sons and daughters is mirrored between humans and apes, illustrating the shared similarities both good and bad in both species. This also serves as the motivating force to struggle to build for the future, hoping for peace that is so fragile in a brave new world. This all comes together to create a compelling journey that takes hold of the audience.

I cannot recommend this film enough, as one not to be missed this year. It has earned an outstanding 9/10.