Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review: Smarter Than It Looks

Photo Credit:http://screenrant.com/tag/dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes/

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is without a doubt the closest an Apes film has come to recapturing the spirit of the 1968 original. There likely won’t be a more intelligent blockbuster this summer.

Picking up ten years after the events of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, humanity has been all but wiped out by the virus consuming the world. The last few patches of survivors travel the globe looking for a power source. Meanwhile, Caesar (Andy Serkis returning for another jaw-dropping mocap performance) and the other apes he freed have flourished in the forests outside San Fransisco. Caesar has a family now and believes humanity to be extinct after not seeing a person for two years.

Well that turns out be wrong pretty quickly when a group wanders into the forest looking for a dam to generate power and a human shoots an ape. We meet Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of only a few human characters worth investing in, who tries to facilitate peace between the apes and humans most of the film. It doesn’t go so well.

What’s refreshing about Dawn is that neither side in the conflict feels inherently wrong. The movie has its heroes and villains but there’s never a moment where you question their motives. With both sides having good an bad, this film isn’t your typical good vs. evil summer romp. Instead, it’s an incredibly sophisticated look at societies in general, and how primitive we really can be. It makes for one of the most melancholic movies with a massive budget in recent memory.

Being more ambitious and trusting of its audience than the last entry, Caesar is the main character in this film. It’s daring to put a CG ape that speaks slowly and with a limited vocabulary front and center, but it totally works. If there was any studio interference on this film you don’t feel it at all. Dawn truly feels like an artistic vision meant to examine this world, not just continue it.

You do wonder how many of these pre-Planet of the Apes movies can really exist before audiences think we’ve been rising to the dawn of the origin of the planet of the apes for almost a decade now. As great as this film is, the franchise would likely be better off not continuing to develop this transition era between humanity ruling the Earth and apes taking over.

Many reasons Dawn works so well is that it feels so different from Rise simply because of the significant time jump. It feels like a different world, but now I’m not sure this world has another place to go before Charlton Heston crash lands 2,000 years in the future.

It’s a concern, but not one that ruins the movie or its particularly arresting climax. The fact is, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes a perspective on conflict that so few movies of this kind dare adopt. You’re not really rooting for either side, and when one side is a bunch of apes, that is to be commended. The result is one of the most fascinating movies of the summer and a deep blockbuster only true artists can deliver. The future is uncertain, but for now, these apes are strong. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

 

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