Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an intelligent blockbuster. It’s an awful phrase or point of view but one that can be distinguished. In a summer full of huge robots punching each other or at least two superhero movies offering much of the same, it sometimes feel like there isn’t room for a movie that can be clever, epic and have huge sequences of action that could rival what is produced by Marvel.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed this back in 2011, offering a movie that had a huge spectacle finale but also gave the audience a story with depth that wasn’t necessarily black and white. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes everything that made Rise successful and builds upon it further, offering a movie that is much more than ape vs man, like you may have expected.
The story itself is one that offers much more of a personal conflict. This isn’t a movie that necessarily pits man against ape for no reason other than survival. There are reasons that conflict could arise and the story actually centers around the representative for both of their species and their uneasy trust of the other.
In another development from the first movie, the most astonishing thing about Dawn is the motion-capture performance of the apes. The representative for the apes is still Caesar, getting a much more developed part from the first movie and arguably being the lead of the film. It is his struggle with leadership, protecting a family, dealing with rivals and making the correct decisions for his colony that concerns the movie and large chunks of the film are just apes, signing to each other and acting in their forest based home.
It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that you forget that you are watching CGI. This doesn’t feel like Gollum or Ja Ja Binks but a perfect realisation of an ape. Andy Serkis returns to the role he played in Rise and is faultless, never once feeling like a man pretending to be an ape. The same can be said for the rest of the motion-capture artists, each playing their parts, including rival Koba and son Blue Eyes. Serkis is campaigning for CGI recognition at awards such as the Oscars and based on this performance, there is a genuine justification for it.
That’s not to say that the human actors don’t pull their weight. Gary Oldman is the huge “star” to attract viewers but has little to do compared to the human counterpart to Caesar, Malcolm, played by relative unknown star Jason Clarke. He plays his part very well but this isn’t really a human story and it soon becomes apparent that the real tale is in the battle amongst the apes, not with the humans.
That’s not to say that the movie lacks in that department though. The final third of the movie erupts into a huge battle sequence that rivals much of what we have seen on-screen this summer. It has intelligent, well shot action, not blurred, fast paced or ludicrous. Scenes such as an ape riding a horse through fire, brandishing a machine gun in each hand are breathtaking and memorable.
That is the biggest success of Dawn It manages to deliver an intelligent, well-told story, with real heart and emotional drama and also give the audience an action filled spectacle that will take their breath away. The final battle, between the real hero and villain of the story is one of the best fight sequences I’ve seen on film in a long time.
Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes everything that Rise did well and builds upon it, delivering a much grander spectacle, much more powerful story and also sets up for a potentially great end to the prequel trilogy. The CGI is perfect and is a testament to Serkis as an actor. It also carries through to some great action sequences, helping to produce an intelligent blockbuster.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)