Caesar is back and more bada** then ever. Three years after the rebooting of the franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (we will shorten it to "Rise") we are finally given the next installment. After the financial and critical success of Rise, many fans were curious whether a sequel will continue down the same path or fall into a category of terrible sequels that ruined it's predecessor. Luckily, safe to say this film (shortening to "Dawn") was the one we were waiting for. Click below to see my video review
I'll sadly admit that it was only a month or two ago that I saw Rise. It was a movie I had always wanted to see but just never got around to. Once the trailers for Dawn were released I had to finally sit down and see it. I loved it. Being a writer myself, I've always been a huge fan of dialogue being used heavily. However, Andy Serkis' portrayal as Caesar simply blew me away. Serkis was able to bring a perfect combination of intimidation with vulnerability to Caesar that made dialogue simply unneeded.
Dawn picks up 10 years after the Rise and was able to show you all you needed to know about the spread of the virus in a minute or two long animation graphic/audio sound bites montage. I honestly don't think you would need to see the first film to understand what's happening. Sure, you'll catch more easter eggs and certain elements will make more sense but you won't be lost just viewing Dawn by itself. I initially thought [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) might have a similar issue but both sequels dodged that bullet.
The strengths of this film are almost too hard to count. Director Matt Reeves and Cinematographer Michael Seresin bring us a visually stunning film that while performances from Serkis and Toby Kebbell (motion capture for Koba) keep us glued to the seats. The action sequences were astonishing as well as the set design of a rundown jungle-esque San Francisco. The world wouldn't be complete with out the damn near real life apes on screen. The effects should sweep this year as every main character ape had their distinguishing features done to the finest detail.
I'm very picky when it comes to my CGI and when something looks bad I'm going to be really upset with the filmmakers but at no point was I focused on anything else but the story. The writing for this film was also surprisingly superb as it wasn't a black and white good vs. evil action piece. You were often left wondering whose side should we be rooting for now? Should we be rooting for Caesar who wants to show dominance but also keep the peace? Do we root for the seemingly evil but also sympathetic Koba? Are we completely behind Jason Clarke's Malcolm character? Or do we understand where Gary Oldman's character is coming from with his defensive opinion? How many films make you question whose side you would take like this? Not many. Especially in the summer blockbuster season.
The film of course isn't perfect. The underutilization of the tremendous Gary Oldman has to be the top crime in the film. His character simply isn't around enough to care about the conclusion of what I guess you could call a short arc. It saddens me with the thought that any actor really could've stepped into those shoes but hey I will never say no to seeing Mr. Oldman. Other little issues such as occasional awkward audio mixing during certain scenes or the fact that sometimes the apes would be using ASL (American Sign Language) while other times they were just flailing their arms were noticeable.
However, [Dawn of the Planet of the Apes](movie:322904) just had too many positives to give it anything else but my best rating which is "Tremendous, probably going to buy it the day it comes out on DVD".