My Thoughts on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

DawnofthePlanetoftheApesThe stakes are raised in the second film of this rebooted Planet of the Apes series.  In the decade since the first film, the drug that has made apes smarter has also resulted in a global pandemic that killed half the world’s human population.  Caesar (Andy Serkis) has been living a peaceful existence with the apes in the redwood forest outside of San Francisco.  The apes soon find out that a colony of human survivors lead by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) have settled in the city and are looking to use a nearby dam to restore power.  Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Ellie (Keri Russell) arrange an uneasy truce with Caesar as they work on the dam. However, tensions begin to rise when the ruthless Koba (Toby Kebbell) takes issue with Caesar’s sympathy towards the humans. 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes set up a new universe for this series, where apes gain intelligence through a drug meant to cure Alzheimer’s. This same drug ended up being a deadly virus for humans, with the planet being ravaged by disease and war in the ten years that pass between the first and second films.  By the start of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the world has been turned into a decimated post-apocalyptic landscape and the remaining humans are in dwindling numbers. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes focuses on the apes right from the start and the humans almost seem like secondary characters.  Much of the film is about the power struggle between Caesar and Koba, who have two highly opposing views of humanity.  Caesar knows from experience that humans have good in them, though Koba holds nothing but disdain towards humans for their previous mistreatment of him.  While the film features much plot development involving the apes, all the humans in the film seem to be just “there,” with the exception of Malcolm, Ellie, and Malcolm’s son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee).  I was particularly surprised that Gary Oldman didn’t have a bigger role in the film, with his character practically disappearing until the third act. With the apes so front-and-centre in the film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes really comes off as support for performance-capture animation, to the point where Andy Serkis gets top billing in the film for his role as Caesar.  While the computer-generated apes aren’t completely photo-realistic, they are pretty darn close.  Also, the film apparently sets the standard for performance capture, since the film has such a large cast of apes all shot on location.  Andy Serkis has been pushing for years for performance capture to be recognized by the Academy and the performances in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes makes a pretty convincing argument. Overall, I have to say that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes really ups the stakes from the previous film to become an entertaining post-apocalyptic action/adventure film.8 | LIKED IT