Drama / Reviews / Science Fiction/ Fantasy

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) review


Ten years after the Simian Flu wiped out the majority of humanity, humans and apes come into contact with one another to disastrous results.

Directed by Matt Reeves (Let Me In CloverfieldDawn of the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece of cinematic science fiction.  I don’t use that word, masterpiece, lightly.  There just really is no other way to describe this film.  While it qualifies as science fiction, it is actually more of a morality drama studying the effects of two different species of intelligent life contacting each other in the aftermath of a great epidemic and war.  It is a brilliant piece of special effects filmmaking that should not be overlooked.

After the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the Simian Flu has wiped out the majority of humanity.  Of those who survived, a majority of them were wiped out in the fighting among each other.  Humanity is on the brink of extinction.  The apes, on the other hand, are thriving in their own community that they created under the leadership of Caesar (Andy Serkis).  Both species are isolated from one another until a chance encounter brings the two species together.  Of course, neither side trusts the other, but they try to work together for the benefit of the humans; they try to restart a dam that will provide the electricity the humans need to survive.  When Caesar is betrayed by one of his own, the humans and apes are forced into war, with only Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Caesar able to bring the destruction to a halt.

Apes on horses!  Apes on horses!  YES!

Apes on horses! Apes on horses! YES!

The sequel to the James Franco and John Lithgow starring Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this film studies the aftermath of the virus that was released near the end of that last film.  With humanity decimated and on the verge of extinction, the apes are thriving.  They are able to communicate through sign language and some spoken`dialogue.  They are evolving into the dominant species on the planet, though they choose to live quiet, peaceful lives in the community they created in the forest.  They are not a warfaring species.  They are not searching out the humans.  With the exception of Koba (Toby Kebbell), they are not afraid of humans or bear them any ill will.  Kobaa, of course, is one of the apes from the first film that had been experimented on in the human labs and is quite scarred from the experimentation.  He hates the humans and does not trust them.  He is the catalyst for the war between the two sides through his betrayal of Caesar.

The humans, though, are living fairly well, all things considered.  Their colony is led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), an ex-military man who founded the colony with Malcolm.  He doesn’t trust the apes, his family having been wiped out by the Simian Flu.  The humans bear a lot of hatred towards the apes, blaming them for the flu, though the flu was manufactured and released by a human lab.  The apes were simply the test subjects of the Alzheimer’s virus, not the carrier.  The humans don’t care.  They are not willing to go to war, though.  They do stockpile their weapons just in case they have to attack or be attacked.  The humans are reliant upon the dam becoming operational for their future survival, though, and they will not let the apes stand in their way of surviving.

I finally managed to see this film yesterday.  I have a lot going on in my life (3 jobs and a wife and a 4 year old who demans a lot of my time).  Getting the opportunity to make it to the cinema to catch a film nowadays requires Army grade logistics planning.  I was simply stunned by the film that I saw.  It is magnificent.  And I cried.  A few times.  It is an emotionally exhausting film.

I know I am not the first one to call for this, but the Oscar deserves to go to Andy Serkis for his portrayal of Caesar.  At the very least a nomination.  I called for this for Rise of the Plane of the Apes, and I now call again for this.  Despite Caesar being animated, the performance is Serkis and it is simply staggering.  This is Oscar caliber work and if the Academy overlooks him again, I will be calling for a full boycott of the useless institution.  They are to honor the best of the best of the year, and you will not get a better performance this year than this.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, despite the clunky title, is a staggering piece of filmmaking.  It is a masterpiece.  Hands down.  Do not miss this film.  It is proibably the best film of the summer and will deserve all of the awards and accolades that it is destined to receive at the end of the years.  It is Oscar caliber, wrapped in sci-fi trappings.  But like all good sci-fi, it examines issues that are relevant today.  See this film.

**** out of ****

BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!

  • Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, is the same actor who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee, the son of Jason Clarke’s character, has been seen in such magnificent films as The Road and Let Me In, the latter also directed by Matt Reeves.  Both films are underrated gems that deserve to be seen.
  • The star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco, has a brief cameo in this film, using footage shot from the first film.  He had no knowledge that he was going to appear in this.  While his fate is never discussed in the film, there is a large ‘X’ on his door, which signifies contagion.  It is easily assumed that he contracted the Simian Flu and died.  The scene where he appears is one of the most heart wrenching moments in the film.



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