Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Year: 2014
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Written By: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver


My standing opinion of sequels is always that they should be more of the same only bigger and better. Sequels have the ability to ruin our favorite characters and stories but when they are done right they become part of something larger. This sequel continued to build toward a solid trilogy that I look forward to seeing completed. I love the 2026 post apocalyptic setting where the virus that started in the first film has wiped out most of civilization. It evens the odds with the ever evolving society of advanced apes led by Caesar. The idea behind what draws the humans and apes into conflict is the most natural one of all; the need to survive. Humans are after certain resources and it just so happens that what they need is in ape territory and apes aren’t too thrilled by their presence. Add in the ignorance to two separate societies that don’t understand one another and the stage is set for a brutal conflict. In an era of too many post apocalyptic films featuring zombies I find this one a nice change of pace.

There are times during this film that I don’t feel like the effects are as good but I think that probably has plenty to do with the effort to make it a 3D film. Studios love that effort to cash in larger profits on their films by charging the extra money. It’s really only the deer and the bear in the beginning that don’t look very good to me. Sometimes it’s as simple as a director change that makes things look just different enough to be frustrating but I don’t think that is the case in this film. Direction definitely could have been better but this movie was good enough at advancing the story to overlook any flaws that could have made the film better.

I love how the story of the apes in this movie unfolds and builds on what was established in the first film. I’m a big fan of Stanley Kubrick so I love the regular references in sound to 2001: A Space OdysseyThe score features audio from the beginning of 2001 in which the ape-men first discover the monolith and figure out how to use weapons for the first time. It’s a fitting reference to a film that has proved over time to be so incredibly influential, although such a difficult film to watch. I love 2001 because it was an awesome film and it’s so iconic, but it does require a certain level of patience to sit through. I had a professor in college claim that it was billed as “the ultimate pothead movie” and it’s easy to see why. You’d almost have to be high to sit through the entire thing as it is mostly a visual movie and the effects it features are long outdated.

I thought the cast of this movie was better than that of the first one. I like that only the actors in the motion capture suits reprised their roles, most notably Andy Serkis who continues to be amazing. I thought the casting of Judy Greer as Cornelia (Caesar’s wife) was a bit odd but apparently she is married to a huge Planet of the Apes fan and might have actively went after the role that no one will know her from. It makes too much sense for none of the humans to have survived to the second film after the “Simian Flu” wipes out most of the population. There are a couple of subtle references to James Franco’s character that easily imply he died of the disease before this film took place. Most notably the fact that when Caesar goes home the house is abandoned and Franco’s vehicle is still in the driveway overgrown by weeds. Had he survived he undoubtedly would have taken his vehicle with him. I think that his absence in this film means even more that the original ending in which Franco died would have been a better way to end the first film.

Jason Clarke plays the most important human in this installment. His star has been on the rise over the last few years and he continues to turn in solid performances. Gary Oldman seems out of place to me in this movie but the man is a pro and he can do anything he puts forth the effort towards. The earliest casting news for the third film shows again that none of the human actors will be returning and I’m not sure why. Jason Clarke and Keri Russell seem like obvious options to be in the follow up but they are not listed on the roster for War for the Planet of the Apes. Woody Harrelson has been cast to play the human military leader and that is a very promising development.

This movie offers some cool looks at social development among the ape community. As a group they have clearly continued to adapt and evolve into a higher society. It also has some really cool action and an interesting build up to the next installment. I love how the movie closes with Caesar telling his new human friend that the war had already begun. Caesar opposed a war but is a smart enough leader to know that at this point there is no backing out. He won in the end but didn’t really win at all. Heavy is the head and it will be really interesting to see what he is like in the next film.

If you haven’t seen this film or this franchise then you are missing out. If you haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes you should definitely see that one first. This movie is a good follow-up that builds to the next film in the franchise. Currently War for the Planet of the Apes is set to be released in the summer of 2017. Hopefully it will hold that date and the movie will bring a close to this exciting franchise. In the meantime if you haven’t seen this one you should check it out, it is definitely worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Risky Business (1981)



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