In 2011, we were greeted with a quasi reboot to the Planet of the Apes franchise. The story introduces the origin point of the first hyper intelligent ape, Caesar. It starts with his beginning as a lab ape in a testing lab and goes on to show him living with his adoptive father, Will Rodman, who is played by James Franco. One thing leads to another, and Caesar is locked away at a sanctuary where he eventually gets depressed and angry and ends up using medicine on the other apes, putting together a small ape army, and escaping San Francisco to live in a redwood forest. Rise of the Planets of the Apes was a surprise hit so of course we would get another one.
Don’t take that as a slight against the sequel Dawn of the Planets of the Apes. Many people like to complain about Hollywood constantly retreading and never making anything original. I am not one of those people. As long as sequels maintain freshness and quality, I am happy to see them and this is one that I personally think not only lives up to the original but surpasses it.
Dawn opens with news footage showing the outbreak of the “Simian Flu,” a flu that originates from apes and eventually leads to the downfall of human civilization. It’s depicted through many different videos from real life footage of civil unrest and politicians and officials making speeches. There is also a graphic representation of the spread of the flu across the world with simultaneous representation of lights going out around the world signifying the collapse of electricity and civilization.
We then cut to 10 years after the outbreak and the group of Apes that now have their own civilization, led by Caesar. The apes have not seen a human in years, Caesar is regarded in a way similar to royalty, he has an older son that acts like an adolescent, and another son that is born in this part of the movie. We also have Koba, the nasty looking/kind of evil ape from the first movie as Caesar’s number 2 and Maurice, the orangutan that befriended Caesar in the primate preserve in Rise. This part may start you to wondering if the apes are ever going to talk like Caesar did in the first movie as all of their communication is through sign language. Fear not though, scenes of nothing but sign language eventually get replaced with spoken dialogue as the surviving humans of San Francisco arrive on the scene.
Not long after Caesar talks with Maurice about if the humans are still out there, a group of humans show up. The first one of them to make contact with the ape tribe is Carver, the token idiot human that is too useful to be left at home. Upon seeing a couple of younger apes, he freaks out and shoots one. The rest of the group, led by a man named Malcolm catches up and the humans are quickly surrounded by apes. Casear appears and makes it obvious he is the leader and Malcolm is amazed by Caesar’s presence. Malcolm attempts to diffuse the situation by interacting with and showing respect to Caesar. Caesar screams at the humans to GO and everything is diffused.
Caesar then decides at Koba’s insistence that a message needs to be sent to the humans. A large group of the apes go to San Francisco, many on horses and stop just outside the gates of the area where the humans live. Eventually some of the leaders of the community, including Malcolm forward and Malcolm walks out. Caesar lets them know what’s up by saying humans are here, apes are there, don’t come back. He then drops a backpack that Malcolm’s son had left in the woods. The problem with this is that the whole reason the humans where in that area to begin with was to make their way to a dam so they can get electricity back.
I won’t give any more details of the plot of the movie other than to say, we get apes on horses with guns. Reason enough on its own to go see Dawn. we also get to see apes fighting humans, humans fighting humans, and apes fighting apes. The movie does a good job of keeping you on your toes and not always telegraphing what is going to happen, However, there was nothing really shocking that happened either.
I’m not a professional movie critic, I’m just a fan of cinema. I don’t think to myself to make notes about cinematography or the score but sometimes movies do something that just jumps off the screen and catches me despite I am not well versed in the technical aspects of a mivie. I don’t remember anything particularly about the cinematography or score but I did think the apes looked more realistic this go around. I thought Jason Clarke (Malcolm) was good in his role and found his character much more interesting than the similar role that James Franco played in Rise. As one would expect, Andy Serkis was magnificent as Caesar. Gary Oldman was great because he’s Gary Oldman.
I thought Dawn was a stronger movie than Rise. One of the two people I saw it with agreed. In my opinion, it was a much more interesting story. I found that watching the apes interact outside of humanity and then seeing their reaction to the reappearance of humans around them was much more fascinating than the plot of Rise. I also thought that there was lot of character development given to Caesar in this movie, where it did not feel like much in the first. We get to see him grow and mature and make connections and observations about things in this world, especially in some of his final lines in the movie. I loved Dawn of the Planets of the Apes and strongly suggest you see it if you have not already. It might be hard with the release of Lucy or the upcoming release of Guardians of the Galaxy, but I think it’s worth it. If you have not seen Rise, you can still see this and not feel lost, so feel free to go without seeing Rise first.