Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review
While following strongly it the footsteps of its predecessor, and retaining much of the quality of the first, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes made a few clear blunders in storytelling.
Building a strong cast of Apes, the human cast was mostly ignored. For good reason; they were boring.
Caesar, Maurice, Koba, all returning characters from the first film slipped back into place naturally, forming the sense of family and community that was set up but never really seen at the end of the first film. Caesar now has a wife and two children, the older of whom is undergoing his transition from young into fully grown ape through-out the film. This is exactly the kind of sub-plot that could easily become extremely tiresome, but was actually handled quite well, to the point even that I genuinely cared about him and how his character would resolve. That is something I can not say about many “coming of age” characters or stories.
I have never seen Gary Oldman so criminally under-used as an actor. He was obviously attached solely to draw in crowds, with no intention to ever give his character any worthwhile screen time. His beautifully acted, but hopelessly worthless “leader” of the human resistence actually managed to make the modern queen of England look like an involved and powerful leader in comparison to his insane level of figurehead. There were so many opportunities to make his character great, and it would have been so easy to do so, that this is the one blunder of the film that is completely unforgivable.
That being said, the fact remains that this movie was about the apes, not the humans, and rightfully so. The power struggle felt on both the human and ape side was excellent, and this film followed the set-up for leading villain that Rise left us perfectly.
There are lines of dialogue so clearly slipped in as explainers it made me physically cringe, but this is not the kind of thing the casual movie-goer notices. If you aren’t looking for them I doubt you will notice this, and if you are looking for them, you’ll just have to roll your eyes and go back to watching the prettiness of the apes.
Jason Clarke’s character is ever so slightly compelling, and ends up being ruined by oversaturation and way too much screen time for someone that blah. The fact that this bland character is being played by one of the most bland actors of the day doesn’t help, either. I’m not sure I’d call Clarke a bad actor, or even say he did a poor job in this film, I will just say that I wouldn’t cast him, and I sure didn’t care about him by the end of this movie. (Additionally, he makes the most mind blowingly poor attempt at “communication” at the end of this movie that I actually threw my hands up in exasperation and would have thrown tomatoes at the screen if I had had any present.)
The rest of the human cast isn’t even worth mentioning. -yawn- Go back to the apes.
Koba is amazing. His rise in power is by far the best thing about this movie, and if Toby Kebbel brings even half that level of villainy to his recently announced part of Doctor Doom in the 2015 reboot of The Fantastic Four, then we are all in for a treat.
We already know Andy Serkis is the god of motion capture acting, he has proven that time and time again, with Gollum, King Kong, and countless others. He is back in true form in Dawn, and Caesar remains what I truly believe will be heralded for decades to come the most brilliant CGI character of the age.
Every bit of production quality in the beauty, power, and sheer terror of the apes returned from Rise, and they lit up the screen once again with the mind blowing graphics and off-the-chart attention to detail. I can’t even imagine how many hours of watching footage, rehearsing, and tweeking it took the entire team to nail the attitude, personality, movements, and communication all of these apes exhibited. (Just saying, when a fully CGI ape has more personality than your leading man, ya dun goofed.)
Slower paced than it should have been, a bit dull at times, and I am still raging at how poorly Gary Oldman was used. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is still an extremely solid sequel to the first, retained much of its value, and left me feeling excited, anxious, and optimistic about the next one.