Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Score: 9.5 out of 10
2014’s string of unnecessarily excellent action movies continues with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a near perfect film that serves as a sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Dawn takes place ten years after the events of Rise, with mankind all but wiped out by a deadly virus, and the super-intelligent apes left to carve out a living for themselves in the newly overgrown forests encroaching on San Francisco. When a small group of humans encounter the apes during a desperate bid to rebuild their lives, they form an uneasy truce, but soon, prejudice and mistrust on both sides lead to inevitable catastrophe.
I seemed to be one of the few primates who didn’t care for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, its biggest flaw being that most of the characters felt like two dimensional, cardboard cutouts. Bad guys were bad just for the sake of being bad, probably because the story needed a villain at that particular moment, but where Rise failed, Dawn excels. There isn’t a character in this film, ape or human, who doesn’t feel real. Every single one of the villains has a good reason for doing what they do, and if you were in their shoes, or furry feet, you might do exactly the same thing. The tragedy is that even when everyone does what they feel is right, it all comes crashing down. This is obviously a very bleak message; that peace between two rival groups is almost impossible to win, but recent headlines from the real world seem to prove that this is the case.
By now everyone has heard the praise for this film’s special effects, and it deserves every bit of it. This is probably the best looking film ever made, with the close up shots of the main monkey Caesar looking almost photo real. The only flaw is that some of the other apes don’t look as good, and there are a few shots that are not up to the same quality as the rest of the film. This is common in a lot of big special effects movies; the digital artists are forced to devote their precious time to the most important characters or moments, and others don’t get as much attention. Thankfully, this is a minor annoyance, and ends up being a very small blemish on an otherwise flawless film.
For a movie with such an emphasis on groundbreaking technology, it’s worthwhile to point out that the practical production design, that is, the creation of physical sets and props, is also top notch. The filmmakers created a realistic version of a post-apocalyptic world, with just the right amount of foliage and grass creeping in on the crumbling buildings of San Francisco. As Victor Lucas whispered to me during the screening, “they played The Last of Us.”
Movies like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are why we love movies. It’s rare for everything to come together so brilliantly, and it makes suffering through all the other crap worthwhile. We’ve been extremely lucky this year to have gotten so many good films in the span of just a few short months, Transformers: Age of Budweiser notwithstanding. If you want good movies to keep being made, you better go see it.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!