Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

“I always think... ape better than human. I see now... how much like them we are.”“I always think... ape better than human. I see now... how much like them we are.”

“I always think… ape better than human. I see now… how much like them we are.”

I can sit here and legitimately compare the pandemic in the opening credits to what we are experiencing today in real life, it’s eerily similar. This blog is the furthest thing from political but, it’s hard to ignore how real movies can portray society even though the intention in this case isn’t to mimic. This was one of the franchises that never interested me with the original films. Once rise came out, I was instantly intrigued by the story (not because of James Franco) but by the modern take on a well-known IP. A content creator always says regarding reboots, and I’m paraphrasing “If a reboot is released great, if it doesn’t do well, we always have the originals”.

I strongly believe that to be the case. It just so happens that this new apes trilogy (Come on, this is the second one, of course there will be a third one) is pretty damn good. The advancements in technology is a big contributing factor to that success with the motion capture work. If you’ve never seen the behind the scenes videos on a motion capture film, check it out, it’s pretty awesome how a visual effects team can transform a person to a primate.

It’s been 13 years after the Simian flu killed of millions of humans across the globe. A shrewdness of apes (yeah that’s really what a group of apes is called, google it) with Caesar as their leader are grouped and hunting. On Caesar’s command, Koba moves into position and the apes attack a herd of deer. Caesar from the trees and Koba from the ground, a stag gets swept up. Caesar’s son Blue Eyes disobeys a command from Caesar and a grizzly bear attacks them. Koba, hearing the cries for help, rescues Caesar and Blue Eyes killing the bear.

While fishing Ash and Blue Eyes encounter a human named Carver, who is part of a group looking to restore power using the hydroelectric dam. Carver gets spooked and shoots Ash in the shoulder alerting the rest of the primates. The leader of the human group Malcolm comes face to face with Caesar pleading that they mean no harm. Caesar scares them away and has Koba follow them back to San Francisco. Koba returns to Caesar, reports on what he finds and demands action be taken on the humans. Caesar and the primates show their strength by riding on horseback (so many thoughts about this) to the community of humans.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) does not want to start a war but will fight if they have to, giving the order to Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to stay in their territory. Malcolm pleads with Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to take a small group to attempt to power the dam and restore power to the community. Malcolm meets with Caesar to allow them to fix the dam, but Caesar gives them one condition: the humans must surrender their guns. Koba (Toby Kebbell) has a deep mistrust of humans ever since he was in captivity. Koba wants to attack the humans but Caesar insists that no fighting will happen.

Malcolm, his wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and his son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) begin to bond with Caesar and the primates while Koba’s distrust in the humans and in Caesar’s leadership grows. Koba learns of an armory Dreyfus has commanded his people to travel to, to find weapons for the impending battle. During Koba’s second trip to the armory, he attacks two people and kills them with an assault rifle. Koba returns to the dam and confronts Caesar, attacks him but ultimately submits after Caesar fights back.

Malcolm and Ellie are able to restore power to the community but during their celebration with Caesar and the primates, Koba takes advantage to start a fire and shoot Caesar, framing the humans. Caesar presumed dead, Koba leads an attack on the human community starting an all-out war. Neither side budges until Koba overtakes a tank and rams the steel barriers down for the apes to take over. Koba imprisons the humans and the primates closest to Caesar including Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary). Ash (Doc Shaw) a loyalist to Caesar refuses to kill a human being, gets thrown over a barrier by Koba and dies.

While still in the forest, Malcolm and his family find a wounded Caesar and brings him to his former home in San Francisco to help him heal. Lacking the proper supplies, Malcolm sneaks into the settlement and comes across a raid in a home with Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) present. Blue Eyes learns that his father is still alive and spares Malcolm. Caesar reveals that Koba was the one that shot him and burned their home not the humans as the apes thought originally. Blue Eyes is able to free the imprisoned apes and brings the group back to the home to find Caesar all patched up but still a little weak.

Malcolm leads Caesar and his supporters into the city as they run into Dreyfus. Malcolm learns that Dreyfus intends to use C-4 to blow up the tower where the primates have taken refuge and that radio contact went out to survivors who plan to make their way to San Francisco. Caesar confronts Koba, injuring him while Dreyfus detonates the C-4 blowing himself and two others up along with the tower. Koba, struggling to survive shoots an automatic rifle at Caesar’s allies gets distracted and Caesar takes advantage finally putting an end to Koba. Malcolm and Caesar have one final embrace together as friends before going their separate ways.

This is one of the trilogies with the second film being the best effort (Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2). This franchise has us asking do we even need a human element at all? I think we do but not as much that is in the final cut of this film. It’s better that the apes are the main focus as the humans take a back seat in the storytelling, its Caesar’s story now, he is the most important character in this world and we’re all just living in it. The different cast works well as it suggests that the humans from Rise didn’t survive the Simian Flu. The call back is touching as it connects the two films giving Caesar the reminder that even though there are bad humans out in the world, there are good ones too. As hurt as Caesar has been on his journey so far he still has faith in humans even if the signs say not to. It’s that trust and empathy that makes Caesar a needed leader over the primates.

Andy Serkis pushes the envelope from the first film continuing his portrayal as Caesar. His actions and movements are incredibly lifelike making Caesar feel unique and not like the rest of the primates. The visual effects alone make this trilogy one to not miss. The best scene’s in this film are when it’s just the apes on screen, they steal the show. The apes prove to be just as civilized as humans with the society they’ve built and their own set of morals and laws they live by. It’s the beginnings of their Ten Commandments and Caesar is their prophet. This is their revolution; all the apes want in life is to be free and escape bondage. Their struggles are compelling and can be compared to history as civilizations attempt to gain their freedom through survival.

On the human side, Jason Clarke’s Malcolm is the kind of leader we expect to have during an apocalyptic type event, but we end up with Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus who holds the militaristic power therefore having the ultimate control over the community. We end up with the ultimate good Caesar see’s through past experiences and the ultimate evil that Koba sees by being at the mercy of human experiments his entire life. The loathing Koba holds within winds up being his downfall as he proves he is no ape at all. The moment with Alexander and Maurice is charming as they bond over books. Caesar still has some trauma from being locked up by animal control, but he is intelligent enough listen to reason and has the competence to realize when he needs human help. The writing for Caesar is perfect, he’s more capable than he lets on and it’s amazing to see his growth as a character. Caesar is revered to the other apes but not all apes can get past the stigma that the evil humans have given them.

This film is done fantastically well, the story and pacing work in tandem as the plot unfolds. Even with the change in directors, the story doesn’t suffer, in fact everything Rupert Wyatt accomplishes in Rise gets elevated to higher levels. These non-human characters are extremely complex that sometimes we can forget that 1) they aren’t real and 2) they aren’t human. Caesar is surprisingly more human than most humans are on this earth. It’s hard to say anything bad about this movie, it’s a fascinating science fiction film filled incredible emotion and intense action sequences. If I were to rate Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I’d rate it a 4.75 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves is Rated PG-13 and has an 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released on July 11th, 2014 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can be bought by online retailers such as Itunes, Google, Amazon and Vudu.

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