I was a huge fan of Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 film, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” He successfully restarted a franchise that had been lying dormant since Burton’s laughably awful “reimagining” in 2001 of the original film franchise. Wyatt’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” explores the origins of the super-smart primates, the first steps of the demise of the human race, and the rise of hyper-intelligent super apes that will (spoiler alert!) eventually take over the world.
Matt Reeves, known for “Cloverfield” and “Let Me In,” takes the reigns from the competent Wyatt and continues the the origin story of “Planet of the Apes.” The movie opens 10 years after the events of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the plague dubbed the “Simian Flu” wiped most of humanity away. The apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), have built a primitive colony in the Muir Woods north of San Francisco. Their population in the hundreds, the apes live peacefully, educating their young that “Ape does not kill Ape” in an effort to avoid what Caesar believes is humanity’s greatest fault.
Meanwhile, a large group of human survivors in San Francisco, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), need to restart the hydroelectric power plant in the Muir Woods to power their radios in the hopes of reconnecting with other human survivors across the country. On their way to the dam, the humans make contact with the ape colony, and Caesar is forced to make a decision to either drive the humans away, or help them.
Both “Rise” and “Dawn” have some of the best creature CG and textures I’ve ever seen on film. Reeves does not shy away from closeups of the animals in all types of light. Everything is so well-blended, you quickly forget what’s real and what’s generated; the interactions between Malcolm and Caesar seem so natural and real, you’ll lose yourself in the story.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” excels at making the audience question their own allegiance – are we rooting for the apes, or for our own race? Like most post-apocalyptic films, the universe created here is bleak, and the conflict between humans and apes is, in many ways, a character study on humanity and human nature.
Like “Rise” before it, “Dawn” presents an intelligent, fun, and entertaining film in a sea of summer popcorn fare that’s the exact opposite. Check this film out.