There's a chance that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be the reason Andy Serkis is finally recognized by both the academy and general audiences. The academy because he's deserved at least an Oscar nomination ever since he played as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The general audience because it's still widely believed that Caesar is a completely CGI character. This man is the Leonardo DiCaprio, the Daniel Day Lewis of motion capture editing. The complexity and range of emotions he brings to his characters is undoubtedly far exceeding those of some modern time actors. He's played a giant gorilla, a physically damaged hobbit, an intelligent and loving ape along with many other human roles. We need to rise to the occasion as movie lovers and finally accept that this man has given some of the best performances of all time, and with this film, as Caesar, he has given us the best motion-capture film performance there has ever been.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place a number of years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Apes are surviving in the Muir Woods, together as a family and strong as a whole, unaware of the continuing existence of humans until one day they cross paths. It's an Indians vs. settlers film at first that becomes many things in the end. Besides Serkis's massively emotional and gripping performance, it's Matt Reeves direction and the screenplay that make this movie the masterpiece it is.
The script (written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback) is full of beautifully realized characters that each have a prime basis for being a part of the story. Every ape that is highlighted brings a certain element to the progression of the narrative. Every highlighted and main human character has his/her own obstacles and desired achievements, whether it be to bring peace, educate, save beyond rationale or be the flawed saint. Each scene presents a new kick, a new thump that sets the story on a completely different and unpredictable course and this can only be appreciated so much. We are so used to being able to piece together a film as we embark on the cinematic journey from Scene 1; but Dawn takes us on so many twists and turns that our minds will be constantly rapid-firing the different possibilities, and still be erroneous the moment the sequence reveals what will happen next. It's a story full of beautifully woven scenes, great dialogue and character moments that are incredibly moving and intimate.
Matt Reeves proves once again that he will take any project of his with great passion and desire. He knows this world and the aesthetics of it. The cinematography is beautiful and realized. Every shot and every second is never wasted and although the film stretches at two hours and ten minutes, it never drags and never fails to grab the attention of its audience. Reeves utilizes very strategically placed camera cuts and allows for the actors the do their work without a sense of urgency. There are two brilliantly captured one shot sequences, each lasting for a good thirty seconds, that remind us why he is at the helm (one taking place on the exterior of a tank and another in a house as a character escapes with medical supplies).
Michael Giacchino's score is swelling and subtle and incredibly reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's score for the original Planet of the Apes (1968). He uses many different and specifically "tropical" instruments to give a sense of wilderness. Jerry Goldsmith implemented a method of using a disparate orchestration to make audiences feel as if they were in another world, a foreign world and Giacchino does the same. However, as different as the orchestration is from your usual Hollywood blockbuster score, it still feels tangible and just as mesmerizing.
WETA, the mastermind CGI/motion-capture artists behind such films as Avatar, Elysium, The Hobbit franchise, District 9 as well the Dawn's predecessor, Rise, completely outdo all of their work combined in this singular film. The motion-capture is seamless, flawless, perfection to the unrivaled degree. Every wrinkle on each ape, every twitch, every single movement is so detailed and beautifully captured. It's a shame that their work isn't recognized as much as it should be because these apes are SO "real" that it's impossible to not believe they are. The amount of attributes and characteristics put into bringing these apes to life from a motion capture performance is undeniably hard work, and WETA proves that they are the best in the business.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is truly a special, special film that was put in the right hands. Coming off of a prequel that was considered to be one of the best films of its year, this is one of the best films of this year. It has everything required to be a great summer blockbuster, but even more so, everything to be a great piece of cinema. We live in a time where people constantly bash sequels for their lack of originality. To be frank, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and...Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is a movie that should be seen on the big screen not for the action, but for the rich storytelling, the great direction of Matt Reeves, WETA's contribution to the motion-capture universe and most of all, Andy Serkis's performance that will put him in the list of Top Ten Actors of all time.