Possible spoilers ahead!
San Francisco has had a tough year. First, the 49ers bolted the Bay Area for Santa Clara. Then in May, Godzilla and a couple of Muto’s destroyed most of downtown San Francisco. And now, the city has been overrun by a bunch of damn dirty apes.
2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was about an ordinary ape named Caesar realizing his extraordinary potential and becoming a leader for his kind. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picks up a decade after the events of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” but the good news is you don’t need to have seen Rise to appreciate the sequel.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” expands on Caesar’s story after the ape’s revolution. For the most part, memory of the rebellion has faded and Caesar and his fellow apes have settled in the Northern California forest.
Caesar is still the leader, and most of the apes are happy raising their families in seclusion. The apes haven’t seen any humans for months, and Caesar thinks they may have wiped themselves out.
But all that changes when a small group of humans led by Jason Clarke and Keri Russell suddenly appear near the apes home. One of the humans shoots one of the apes, and Koba (Caesar’s second in command) wants revenge. But Caesar doesn’t want war, so he gives the humans an ultimatum: Leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.
You’d think a talking ape would keep people away, but of course not. Jason Clarke and Keri Russell and their team head back into the woods and explain to Caesar they need to reactivate the dormant hydroelectric plant in the woods to restore power to San Francisco, where a few hundred plague survivors have settled amid stone-age squalor.
The survivors in the city are led by Gary Oldman. While Oldman only cares about the remaining humans, Jason Clarke claims to seek nothing but peace with the apes. Caesar still remembers the good in humans, but Koba (Toby Kebbell), only remembers their cruel savagery.
So how does Dawn compare to the first film? It doesn’t. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a better film in almost every way possible. The plot is better, the look and feel of the movie is better, and the acting (both ape and human) is amazing.
The star of the film is Caesar, played by Andy Serkis. Without a doubt, this is his best work to date. Even cloaked in full computer generated ape, Serkis conveys more emotion than any human character. Who needs monkey suits after seeing this wonderful performance?
One of the things I liked about this movie, is that the filmmakers handle the apes with sympathy. These apes aren’t some type of hyper-aggressive mutations. They’re actually quite rational and forgiving — far more than many of the humans they encounter in the film.
Although the humans are constantly on the edge of violence, in this movie the apes become the good guys. Thanks to Caesar, the apes follow a principle of not killing either humans or other apes.
By the way, my favorite ape was Maurice the orangutan.
I don’t want to spoil much more about the plot, because that would ruin the fun. I will say my only complaint is that Gary Oldman wasn’t in the film enough. That surprised ,me because he top billing leading up to the film’s release.
Plus early on he mentions how some humans were immune to the virus, but this is never expanded upon. Perhaps in the next film?
In the end, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is an exceptional movie. Beautifully shot, and with a story that keeps you captivated for over two hours.
Dawn is an exciting genre film that packs in drama, twists and spectacular action with a style all its own. This is one movie worth seeing in theatres.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” final score 9