I don’t know what’s more incredible. The fact that this is the 8th Planet of the Apes film in an almost 50 year old series. Or that the filmmakers were able to come back from that Tim Burton debacle from 2001. Either way, nothing can deny that the apes are back and everyone should do as the TV ads say and indeed ‘hail’ Caesar.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picks up ten years later after the previous film ‘Rise’ from 2011 left off. And if you didn’t see the end credits of that film, they pretty much replay it in the intro of this one. Adding images along with the now dubbed Simian Flu which caused an outbreak that turned the human race against itself. In San Francisco as man fell, Caesar and his fellow apes have thrived and grown in numbers, creating families and learning to survive. When what remains of the humans in a dilapidated portion of the city try to reactivate a dam to restore their power, they stumble across the ape community. At first both sides consider the other a threat, and after a shaky compromise, the inevitable ‘all hell breaks loose’.
Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) has brought to stunning life this series that was just a surprise reboot of a few years ago. His visual style along with the amazing motion-capture that keeps getting better every year, fill the screen with unforgettable images. Andy Serkis who reprises his role as Caesar once again brings his performance to an epic level. Truly playing a king to his subjects, he is so good that you really do forget that you are looking at a special effect. What helps this along is the writing by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback, who do an outstanding job of keeping the ape dialogue (which is a lot of sign-language) to a minimum but still giving the room for the actors to give great performances. The stand out for me was Toby Kebbell as the ape Koba. As the film goes further along he just gets more and more amazing.
What gets short-changed is the human element. Now I didn’t expect to get much from the people in a movie with ‘Apes’ in the title, but since they are the source of the conflict I had hoped for a little more. Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Jason Clarke do their best with what little they are given, but nothing can take away what this film is able to achieve.
You will be spellbound by the images of apes on horseback with guns and fire, it is truly something to behold and is by far the most visually charged and emotionally engaging movie of the summer. And by the end it does what any good sequel should do, you are satisfied and left with the anticipation of what is to come.
–Robert L. Castillo