I’m a little torn on what to say about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It’s incredibly entertaining, the special effects are intricate and detailed (really a feat in and of themselves), the performances rock solid, the story moves along at a rapid pace, and the script thankfully avoids a lot of cliches and pitfalls. But at the same time this film, for the most part, is frustratingly predictable. Which is not to say I don’t recommend going to see it. I most certainly do, with one caveat… for me, there is no reason to see this in 3D. Save your money and see it in a normal 2D environment. The world building does very little to warrant the 3D treatment and I don’t think it serves the film overall in any way.
Dawn opens with a time-lapse of news stories about how the human race has all but been wiped out by the “simian flu”. The planet has finally gone dark and is beginning to be reclaimed by the wilderness. And this is where the story begins, introducing us to where the apes are now, already in a full fledged tribal society. We learn their hierarchies, their lineages, their triumphs and their challenges. And into this idyllic landscape come the human intruders, hoping to initiate work on a damn that could provide much needed power to their refugee city. We immediately learn who the hate-filled fear mongers are (both ape and human), and who the noble open-minded peacemakers are. And this is where the frustration comes in. Every character role is so perfectly designed that there is really no room for surprises of any kind. We know from the outset how this whole story is going to go down and whose actions will be responsible. The metaphors for racism and the themes of the consequences of ignorance and hatred couldn’t be clearer. But they’ve all been done to death before. Dawn has nothing new to add to the conversation.
But despite all that, the film is a cinematic achievement. Andy Serikis‘ performance as the emotionally conflicted and almost Christ-like Caesar, leader of the tribe of intelligent apes, is reason enough to see the film. But the big surprise for me was Jason Clark, who’s been popping up all over the place lately (Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty, to name a few). While his character’s decisions and personality might have been predictable, he portrayed it with incredible honesty. His presence was felt in every scene he was in, and even though I knew how it would end I still found myself rooting for him and his higher ideals to prevail. I hope to see more and more of him in upcoming feature films!
Finally, I have to give a shout out to Maurice, the sage-like orangutan who’s obvious wisdom and sense of rightness was the most charming and least predictable part of the film. He reminded me a bit of Silent Bob, only speaking when absolutely necessary and providing some of the most heartfelt moments of the entire movie. I love Maurice!
Ultimately I give this a 3.8 Nerdskulls out of Five!
Check out the trailer below!
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