Being just fresh off of my viewing of the previous instalment (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) several days prior I was very excited to see this one as I quite thoroughly enjoyed Rise, and the trailers I saw made this follow up look pretty promising (well from what I saw anyway).
Now just as a friendly warning, I am going to go in depth with this and there will be some spoilers. So if you have yet to see it then to be safe I recommend that you don't read on, but if you have seen the movie and would like to know my thoughts (you'll probably know what moments I'm talking about) then by all means read on….just a heads up.
The plot involves Caesar (from the previous movie) leading his family of apes who have now established a functioning habitat in a seemingly dead world caused by a virus created by scientists which has wiped out a large portion of the human race, the apes find a small group of survivors lead by a man named Malcolm in search of a generator at a dam located within the apes' territory which will give them power to their respective territory. With no alternative power source the humans have no choice but to convince the apes to trust them into letting them into their land in order to get to the dam and power up the generator, but soon tensions between the two societies rise.
This is honestly one of the most intense movies I've ever had the pleasure of sitting through and I'm not even kidding, right from the opening credits and opening scene you just know that something bad is going to happen. You don't know what it is, but you just know it's coming and this builds a very steady uneasy tone that doesn't let go throughout. This was set in stone by one of my favourite moments right at the start of the movie in which we see a shot of Caesar in the jungle with his family of apes staring intensely into the camera, this single shot alone perfectly set the tone for the rest of the movie and lets you know that what you're about to witness is quite an experience and will blow your freaking mind.
There were a few familiar faces for me with examples being Gary Oldman (who I remember as Count Dracula in 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' and for his very funny performance in that one episode of 'Friends') and Keri Russell (Dark Skies) along with Kirk Acevedo (who I remember very fondly for his role as prisoner Miguel Alvarez in HBO's hugely underrated prison drama 'Oz'), an actor whom I was very glad to see on the big screen. Everybody all did their jobs correctly and were believable in their roles so there wasn't a problem with the casting for me.
The characters in the movie were pretty standard but were well executed. We have Malcolm well played by Jason Clarke, who's just an ordinary family man not looking for trouble but just trying everything that he can to provide for his family (his wife Ellie a former nurse played by Keri Russell, and his son Alexander played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) as well as along with the humans' leader Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman) to help protect and preserve what's left of the human race within their community of survivors despite what little resources they have at their disposal. Within Malcolm's team we have a real a****** by the name of Carver (played by Kirk Acevedo) who completely despises the apes, does not trust them one bit, and just downright refuses to call a truce with the apes.
On the opposing side of the humans we have Caesar (from the first movie 'Rise' played by Andy Serkis reprising his role) the leader of the apes and is pretty much just like Malcolm, he's not looking for trouble but is just trying to protect his family. Then we have the equivalent of Carver, an ape and Caesar's second in command by the name of Koba (played this time by Toby Kebbell) who is basically the a****** of the apes, despises the humans due to being mistreated by them in 'Rise', distrusts them completely, and like Carver just refuses to work alongside the humans and accept them despite Malcolm and Caesar's cooperation. But he "one-ups" Carver so to speak as he takes things to the extreme, which leads to a vital moment in the plot but I'm not going to reveal that.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS
The special effects were outstanding to say the least, especially the ape effects. Now obviously the ape effects were possible with the aid of C.G.I. and/or Motion Capture effects, but they were done so flawlessly that whilst you're watching it you start to forget that it was done with computer generated effects. THIS is an example of C.G.I. used the correct way, and this is coming from somebody who is always displeased when it comes to these types of special effects in movies. You really do start to believe that the apes are actually in front of the camera interacting with the actors, which is quite an accomplishment and I take my hat off to the special effects crew responsible for it all. Which leads to another one of my favourite moments in the movie where Koba rides on a horse whilst simultaneously firing two assault rifles in each hand, there is nothing more awesome and f***ing epic as that.
Remember how awesome it was when Caesar first spoke in 'Rise'? Well I can definitely confirm that this has not changed and is just as awesome this time around, if not even more so. Andy Serkis' voice as Caesar is SO powerful and I still get shivers down my spine whenever he speaks. I especially loved the scene where Caesar and the apes enter the humans' territory riding on horses to state that they will stay out of the humans' land if the humans stay out of theirs, but they will fight if they must. The acting in that scene was incredible and I believe I got goosebumps from it, which brings me to another point. It seems to me that any character looks badass when they ride on a horse, this being proven by Caesar as well as the other apes in that scene. It seems to always make anybody look like a force to be reckoned with and lets the audience along with the characters know that they're the f***ing s***. I believe it's because it gives off a sense of power and sophistication to anybody riding them (as if to say "Don't f*** with us."). Even a character like Pee-Wee Herman could look badass if he made a dramatic entrance whilst riding a horse, it's THAT effective.
THE CAMERA WORK
The camera work was also very good, one particular moment that stood out to me was when Koba stole a military tank after killing its human occupants. The whole scene was shot from one angle above the tank's entry hatch, it was shot from a 3rd person perspective and followed the movements of the tank as all the action around it was happening.
There was a great emphasis on survival in [Dawn of the Planet of the Apes](movie:322904) which is on of the key points in the post-apocalyptic genre that I enjoy the most to be honest, because it brings up a very relatable and vital question that everybody is eligible to ponder in their minds "What would I do in that situation?" or "Would I have what it takes to survive in that situation?". The fact that these are scientifically altered super intelligent apes our characters are dealing with makes this an even more intriguing question.
Underneath the serious tones this movie does possess a sense of humour which is elaborated in a couple of scenes involving Koba imitating the stereotypical mannerisms of the common ape in order to convince two of the humans that he's perfectly harmless so that he can infiltrate the humans' base, that was funny. There was also a very sweet and heart warming scene where Malcolm's son Alexander teaches Maurice (played by Karin Konoval) to read which I thought was nice to see as it shows that the humans and the apes can indeed get along if they're willing to set aside their differences and call a truce, one of the many themes in the post-apocalyptic genre.
There is also a little reference to 'Rise' featuring a cameo of its star James Franco (who played Dr. Will Rodman) via video footage which I thought was a very welcoming touch.
Another memorable moment for me during the movie was during a scene where Alexander asks Ellie about her daughter whom of which she lost, when asked what her daughter's name was she replied with "Sarah.". It was funny that she said that because just moments before she answered I actually thought to myself "I bet she's going to say Sarah.", and when she did I immediately thought that I could've easily made some quick and easy cash by making a bet with my friend who watched it with me that she would say that name. That among others seems to be a very common female name in movies and television, with the male equivalents being Michael and John among others.
I've read that people are comparing this movie to 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back', with Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter saying the following:
"the film manages to do at least three things exceptionally well that are hard enough to pull off individually: Maintain a simmering level of tension without let-up for two hours, seriously improve on a very good first entry in a franchise and produce a powerful humanistic statement using a significantly simian cast of characters. In the annals of sequels, Dawn is to Rise of the Planet of the Apes what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars—it's that much better."
I never really thought about it like that when I was watching it but I can definitely see what they're getting at. This movie takes what the first introduced and actually expands upon it, multiplies it several times over, and ultimately makes it stand out in comparison, which I have to admit that this movie is much more interesting and entertaining than its predecessor. So I guess that critic has been quoted with a very valid point.
I guess the only things that I didn't like about this movie was that it was a little bit predictable (like with the death of Carver at the hands of Koba which I scouted from miles away) and somewhat clichéd at times, but these were only minor and didn't distract from the rest of the movie which was nicely avoided by the filmmakers.
This movie was very intense and at times very heart breaking, but was really entertaining and epic overall. I enjoyed it very much. One thing that shocked me about the experience was actually as I was leaving the theatre with my friend, I heard a few people exclaim that the movie was rubbish and I heard one person actually say "This is the worst movie I've seen, it was s***!!". Now I have no idea what movie they were watching as it was nowhere near being deserving of having the words "terrible" or "worst" as labels, I felt they were poorly judging the movie but of course everybody is entitled to their own opinions.
It left the door open for a third in the series which I'm very glad to see as I'm very much looking forward to more instalments to this well made series of movies inspired by an all-time classic, and I have a prediction for the title of the pending sequel. Either 'War with the Planet of the Apes' or in order to wink at the original series 'Battle for the Planet of the Apes'.
So that's my views of the movie, I hope you enjoyed my opinions and thank you very much for reading. Now remember to never ever f*** with a family of apes unless you're suicidal and/or are just plain stupid. Apes don't f*** around and will show no mercy if you decide to betray them, this movie is proof of that haha. :)