'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' - Review
There is a moment in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in which a blood-thirsty, enraged ape on horseback emerges from a fire curtain unloading two machine guns.
The statement was clear: This movie didn't evade its "bigger, better, louder" sequel duty, filling the story with high-quality action sequences, perfect for the blockbuster summer season.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes happens ten years after the events of the first movie. The ALZ-113 virus has claimed the lives of 90% of the population and civilization has collapsed. James Franco has died, we assume, and Caesar leads a colony of enhanced apes, which has a remarkable degree of organization and functioning.
Where Rise of the Planet of the Apes was more about the unrestrained and destructive human ambition and its irresponsible relationship with other species, Dawn inspects topics like diplomacy, trust, and war deterrence. Using a confrontation between two tribes (one human, other simian), this is a great abstraction of macro politics.
But beyond that, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a story about resentment. That hostility, that unresolved anger, that inability to forgive and forget is what vibrates the tension, actions, and motivations of practically all the characters.
To achieve this, director Matt Reeves (with a script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver) uses the cheap move to over-villainize the character of Koba. The cruel ape also falls into some old, already overcome, vices such as the racist device of having the only African accent, associating the barbarian and evil with the third world continent.
What's Your Rating For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
Although Koba's actions escalate gradually with enough arguments, in the end, the complexity of Caesar's moral compass (maybe the most interesting part of the first movie) is diluted. In the face of such one-sided villain, the hard decisions are easier to take.
On the technical side, Dawn manages to outdo the already amazing achievements of Rise. One can clearly see the performances of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell through these CGI apes and connect with them without barriers or uncanny valleys.
Humans, on the other hand, are virtually incidental. None of them has protagonist power (like, for example, James Franco had it in Rise). That apparent failure is also a great success.
Jason Clarke and Keri "Felicity" Russell are limited to having friendly and humble faces, but their histories, backgrounds, and goals aren't explained nor engaging. The character of Gary Oldman, who could have been a complicated, exciting one—is he a villain? A righteous fighter of the human cause?—ends up having a brief and forgettable presence.
And yet, it doesn't really matter. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' huge merit is that even with the lack of empathy for humans, the film perfectly stands narrated from the apes' point of view. The focus is permanently on Cesar, Koba, Maurice, Blue Eyes, and Cornelia, and that's perfect.
It's a testament to the high communion between technology, great performances, and a solid script.
Title: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Release Year: 2014
Director(s): Matt Reeves
Actors: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards