Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I remember when I first saw the original Planet of the Apes. I admit I still haven’t seen the original in its entirety, but I was flipping through channels this one day on TV: nothing, nothing, nothing, soap, The View, nothing, apes on horseback, wait, WHAT?!

It was the first time in my life I had ever turned on a TV channel and I happened upon apes on horseback. I was certainly confused and bewildered, but intrigued was probably the best adjective to use. That was quite a while ago and I can’t remember anything from that viewing, but the point I’m trying to make remains: when was the last time you saw apes on horseback?

This is why I don’t understand why making a Planet of the Apes reboot was so difficult. I mean, it’s apes on horseback! How do you screw that up? No one else is doing anything like that. The spotlight is centrally focused on you. There isn’t another studio doing a tigers on rhinos movie, although come to think of it, that might not be too bad an idea considering what Hollywood’s giving us these days.

Planet of the Apes aired in 1968 and after its fourth and final sequel, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, premiered in 1973, the Planet of the Apes disappeared…or at least the idea did. For more than a quarter of a century it waited, waited for someone to stir the pot and make the story come alive once again. “But the Ring betrayed Gollum” (Andy Serkis pun, haha) a.k.a. the series went to Tim Burton and rather than a revival we had an execution followed by a decade-long quarantine of the stench that followed. All was not lost however as a second chance was in the cards, Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. I saw it in theaters and I haven’t seen it since. I bought it the other day so I could relive the experience, if only once more, because truthfully, I didn’t find it all that memorable. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t a great movie either. Indifference was what followed me out of the theater that day rather than a new resolve for a sequel. I didn’t think there would be one.

Then the trailer came out for this sequel and while plenty of YouTubers and my fellow bloggers and friends were borderline cataclysmic for this summer blockbuster, I wasn’t. Among the films I really wanted to see this summer, Guardians of the Galaxy topped the list, with Transformers: Age of Extinction and Godzilla trailing behind. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes didn’t have that same draw for me. I was still going to see it, sure, but I wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to get a seat.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may not quite live up to the hype that it’s getting, hype paralleled this summer only by Godzilla, but it comes pretty close. The king of computer animated characters himself, Andy Serkis plays our Alpha Male Caesar. You don’t have to be a brainiac to comprehend why the apes follow this guy. He compels a stern, intimidating aurora that reverberates across all who follow him, constantly instilling hope, safety and community. Caesar’s power is no doubt taken from the real Caesar himself, but contains a more humane, compassionate side to him. You rarely see it but you know it’s there.

Gary Oldman sadly goes underused here to an absurd proportion, making me question why he was given a role that lasts no longer than 15 minutes at the most.

The positives continue to roll with this film though to overshadow that, one being a protagonist set up by Jason Clarke. The special effects, costume design and makeup are all very well done and given all that, this film sounds like a good watch, but what really makes this film one of the summer’s best is the story we have and the character of Caesar. I really can’t stress enough how overwhelming a performance Serkis completes here. Both the humans and the apes want to protect their families and it’s all about survival and how to go about doing that, war or peace, etc. Tensions never reach the point of suspenseful upheaval like it could have but you know the clock’s ticking and something is going down. That’s one of the few complaints I have with this film. Aside from the lingering critic in the back of your head re-admitting the fact that this project has to end at some point, the expectancy for what is to come wasn’t all that high for me. I’m interested to see what happens, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that invisible force we call suspenseful anxiety wasn’t present for this production.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Transformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla, SecretariatPrisoners)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(Transporter 2Battle: Los AngelesSkyfallCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs300)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The TransporterSpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible HulkDisaster Movie)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Starving GamesYou’re NextThorFull Metal JacketAlien Resurrection)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Billy MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and AliensSerendipity)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Planet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (A Haunted House 2Open GraveAlien 3Dark FuryMidnight Cowboy)

My score for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 91.

Far outperforming its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes makes you wonder if Rise of the Planet of the Apes even needed to be made, especially considering the loose attachment Dawn makes to Rise. Aside from a couple nitpicks, most will be pleased and give new hype for the sequel.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

  1. Had to bookmark the reviews again. Only just saw the film.

    Great review. The film is an excellent visual and conceptual improvement of the first and that’s impressive in its own right. And Andy Serkis retains his Title as the master of motion capture.

    “Apes. Together. Strong.”

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