Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Synopsis: “A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.”
The sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece and one of 2014’s best films. It’s blend of ingenious storytelling, powerful performances, unrivaled visual effects, and stunning production designs solidify this installment as the best of the entire franchise.
I left the theater with the same feeling I had when I saw The Dark Knight back in 2008, which was a combination of surprise and relief of how good a sequel was to its already impressive previous film. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes improves upon everything that was right with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and fixes the even minor errors to deliver a wonderful cinematic experience.
What surprised me the most about this film is how emotional it was, with its emphasis on story rather than action set-pieces, unlike the latest Transformers film. The action sequences have much more weight to them because it’s only there to help advance the multiple messages within the film. Praise should be given to the editing of the film for maintaining a sense of tension throughout the film when action sequences are used sparingly.
There were more than a few moments where I was almost moved to tears by scenes of character interactions, and how the events of the film continued to change them and their lives. I began to actually care for the lives of the main characters, and even the lives of those with minor roles, because every single character plays a part in telling the film’s story of the flaws of civilization.
One of elements that worked extremely well for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was Andy Serkis’s acclaimed performance as Caesar. The young and rebellious chimpanzee from the first film is now a strong, middle-aged, and wise leader of an entire city, and Serkis’s performance shows this marvelous progression of character. His work with motion-capture technology makes you recognize that Caesar is not just a work of impressive visual effects, but the powerful portrayal of a complex hero.
However, Andy Serkis’s performance is equally matched by that of Toby Kebbell as the troubled Koba. A certain scene-stealer and a terrifying antagonist to Caesar, Kebbell’s performance as the scarred chimpanzee is something to remember. The rest of cast that utilizes motion-capture tech to portray the ape society is also impressive and wonderful to behold. The human cast is just as good too, and everyone at some point, delivers an emotional moment. Standouts include Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman’s characters, both of which are impressive performances by themselves and could carry the film by themselves.
The excellent casting of the film is matched by the perfect production for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Every single set feels unique and could tell a story by itself, from the primitive but functional ape city, to the desolated and partially destroyed San Francisco that is being rapidly taken back by nature. The visual effects provided by Weta Digital are so good that many of the apes and landscapes could be considered photorealistic and hard to differentiate between the real and the fantasy.
Another amazing aspect of the production is Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack for the film. An obvious fan for Jerry Goldsmith’s original score for the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston, the music for this motion picture incorporates those sounds of tribal drums and weird noises with Giacchino’s use of piano and orchestra to create a soundtrack that sounds both original and pleasantly familiar to fans of the franchise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best films of 2014 and should be a contender for multiple awards later this year. The amazing performances provided by the entire cast, the unpredictable and thought- provoking story, and the memorable production, all under the direction of Matt Reeves, bring about a science-fiction that is a wonder to behold in cinemas and is certainly worth your money and time. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes receives 5 out of 5 stars.