As someone who was disappointed from the quality of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” after all of the lavish praise it received, I will say that “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” improves in quality from the first film within the first half hour alone. The opening minutes of the movie establish how much the virus mentioned in the first film has spread over the course of ten years. While the human race was being wiped out by the plague, aside from those immune to the effects of the disease, the Ape population has grown more intelligent thanks to the genetic mutations of the virus. Caeser, the ape from the first film, leads the colony of apes as they maintain a nice living style away from the surviving humans in the green, plant-like, and abandoned parts of San Francisco. The humans eventually make contact with the Apes, conflicts ensue, and we have our 130 minute summer blockbuster for you. Despite this movie improving in quality from “Rise,” “Dawn” still has flaws that prevent me from giving it a really high score.
My biggest problem with the movie is that it’s incredibly predictable and formulaic. The main antagonist of the film, Koba, is played well by Toby Kebbell, but the way the character is written takes away overall and just puts him into a class along the lines of any other cliched movie villain you can think of. This led to a pivotal plot point in the movie that, while important to the story, basically lines up the rest of the movie on the screen before it even happens, thus taking away the mystery and unpredictability that this could have had. It also makes Koba the villain really formulaic and kind of stupid, aside from a few scenes that are executed incredibly well. This type of stuff really takes me out of films like this, even if everything else in the film is done great.
The performances from Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, and Toby Kebbell all make the film worthwhile. Why Serkis hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar thus far in his career is baffling to me and just makes me wonder when the Academy will give him the title “Academy Award Nominee” that he ever so deserves. Jason Clarke has a great presence as the human protagonist, and his scenes with the Apes are really great to watch. Toby Kebbell has recently been tapped to play Doctor Doom in the upcoming “Fantastic Four” reboot, and after his menacing and charismatic performance here as Koba, I can definitely see him bringing that role to a whole new level. Gary Oldman also manages to have some solid and emotional moments here as well. Nobody is necessarily bad in this movie, it’s just these four are the most memorable to me personally.
Technically speaking, this movie looks absolutely incredible. The design on the Apes look so authentically real that it’s almost hard to tell that they’re just actors in motion capture suits. Not to mention, the design of this post-apocalyptic San Francisco is brooding, grim, and really mesmerizing. However, the visual effects in this movie don’t warrant an extra few bucks to be spent on seeing this in 3D. The 3D isn’t necessarily bad, rather it’s just pointless and unnecessary, so do yourself a favor and just see it in regular 2D if you’re planning on seeing this. Also, and I may be in a minority when I say this, but the score for this movie felt a little out of place. Michael Giacchino’s score, while good, just felt too whimsical and as if he took it right out of an episode of “Land of the Lost.” That’s just my personal opinion, though, as many will see it as a tribute to the old “Planet of the Apes” movies.
Don’t get me wrong, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a good film, I just think it could have been a great film. I feel that, had the film gone to a more unpredictable route and had the humans succumb to their naivety, thus causing the apes to go to war with them and eventually win and showing the full “Planet of the Apes” go into full swing, I think the film would have elevated in quality and given it a solid tie-in to the original film. That might just be me talking, as it seems that a lot of people are calling this the summer’s best blockbuster. Personally, I believe that films like “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” succeeded at being more entertaining and much smarter films that came out earlier this summer. But still, this is a solid blockbuster that is fun, very enjoyable, and improves in quality from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
OVERALL GRADE: 8/10