Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie review
Like the first installment of the rebooted franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes features little in the way of surprises, but is generally superior to Rise without being especially remarkable.
Am I the only one who thinks the first one should have been Dawn and the second one should have been Rise? Is it just me? Oh well.
I liked that the flick started with not only a quick recap of the first one but also a quick explanation of the obvious events following the first film. This was a great way to get things moving forward without a lot of tedious exposition – a quick montage’ll do ya.
The biggest strength (and improvement over Rise) of Dawn is the interesting characters and conflicts. Caesar maintains a delicate balance of strength and mercy and his son, Blue Eyes, who we quickly come to understand after just one scene. Meanwhile, Koba, while not especially sympathetic, is an understandable character who morphs from a trusted advisor to legitimate antagonist – this is the product of good writing. The characters make something old and tired interesting, if not new. Neither the human nor ape characters are free from the chains of prejudice… it’d be easy to make this movie allegory for animal rights, but they kinda did that already in the first one, and this flick gives us a more complicated situation that isn’t so black and white. It seems like there isn’t a lot of room in the franchise to tell an interesting story, so instead, they have interesting characters – it’s a solid approach that I found worked well.
Not all of the characters are that interesting. The human characters are generally lacking. Carver needs a mustache to twirl and Gary Oldman, thy name is exposition. Oldman is a great actor, so it is nice to have someone of high quality pushing things forward, and his character does have motivation, but, like pretty much all of the human characters, he is without arc. In fact, Koba and Blue Eyes are the only characters with legitimate arcs in the whole damn picture, and neither of which are compelling… yet the movie still holds together.
The visuals and CGI is amazing in this movie, but there’s also good anti-Fellowship of the Rings character design. I wasn’t familiar with the actors in the flick when I first saw FotR and I kept getting the caucasian bearded guys mixed up, but they avoided that by giving the most important apes distinct looks. From left to right, Caesar, Koba, Blue Eyes and Maurice all have distinct looks. It helps that they’re not all the same species of ape, too, but Blue Eyes’ scars are not only great design but also a great visual characteristic to set him apart for the audience. (It also shows the duality in his personality; he has a sweet face and these nasty, bloody scars.)
When it comes down to it, the ending of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is sorta satisfying ending, but not really. The personal conflicts are settled, but the intentionally leave doors open for the sequel, which is necessary in a series, but I don’t think it was handled well. Issues that seem like immediate problems are put off until the next movie, and I didn’t love that.
I think this is worth seeing, but I can’t go higher than a 7.5 for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If you have any tolerance for action movies whatsoever, I have to recommend this flick to you – but again, it’s nothing astounding. It’s just an entertaining two hours at the movies.