Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell
Ten years after a pandemic disease, apes who have survived it are drawn into battle with a group of human survivors.
With intelligence and emotional resonance to match its stunning special effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expands on its predecessor with an exciting and ambitious burst of sci-fi achievement.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 11 Jul 2014 Released:
  • 02 Dec 2014 DVD Release:
  • $208.4M Box office:

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Trailer:

Intelligent and thrilling storytelling with amazing CGI – Science-Fiction of the best possible kind9/10
Among Hollywood's recent output of mediocre (and in some cases: downright abysmal) remakes of Sci-Fi classics, 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' was the rare movie which stood out, for it had as much of a brain as it had a heart – plus an original approach to the well-known material and great visuals. Having said that, 'Rise' practically pales in comparison to Matt Reeves' sequel: the upcoming 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is as close to a Science-Fiction masterpiece as a 170 million PG-13 Hollywood summer blockbuster can possibly get.

The storyline picks up ten years after we saw Ceasar and his fellow simian escapees seek refuge in the woods near San Francisco, and although the film's trailers already gave away pretty much everything that happened during that time (and alas, way too much of what will happen), I'm not going to spoil anything for those who carefully avoided watching said trailers. As with all my reviews, instead of giving away any details about the story, I'll elaborate on all other aspects of the movie.

What needs to be mentioned first is what an astonishing achievement 'Dawn' is when it comes to the use of CGI. I'm normally very critical towards the (over-)use of CGI – but the level of craftsmanship displayed here simply has to be admired. It only took me seconds to forget I was watching digital characters (brought to life through the outstanding motion-capture performances by Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell and Judy Grier – to name but a few), and I can't begin to imagine what a task it must have been for the artists and wizards in the animation department to work on every background and every tiny little detail of every character until this level of seamlessness and reality could be achieved.

But nearly every other aspect of the movie has been realized equally well: Michael Giacchino's haunting musical score fits and reflects the drama on screen perfectly, while the – often terrifying – beauty of the images on screen had me immediately wondering who the DoP was (now I know: Michael Seresin, the genius veteran DoP of such classics as 'Midnight Express' and 'Angel Heart'). When it comes to the action; well, 'Dawn' is not your usual summer blockbuster. This is no light-hearted, comic-book-style fantasy film with fun, over-the-top action scenes. What we have here is a gritty, realistic portrayal of a slowly escalating conflict, and when we do get to the battle scenes in the third act, those scenes are a spectacular, mesmerizing visual feast (and ultimately heart breaking).

But the core of this film – and also the reason why the action scenes in the third act really do have an impact and all the mayhem really gets to you – is the intelligent, skilfully told story with its well-drawn, believable characters (portrayed by equally believable actors). The tragic simian/human conflict mirrors our real – and very human – past and present day wars and social frictions in a very credible way and thus makes this film resonate far beyond what any mere Sci-Fi premise would let you expect.

So my verdict: With its beautiful imagery, highly relevant story and breath-taking effects, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is as close to a Science-Fiction masterpiece as its mass-audience orientated constrictions allowed it to be (which – in this case – is very close); an astonishing achievement and highly recommended. 9 stars out of 10.

Favorite Films: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054200841/
Great Effects, but Lacks Substance6/10
As an avowed fan of the original Planet of the Apes films and the 2011 reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it was with some anticipation that I awaited this latest instalment in the prequel series. Maybe I had my expectations too high, or maybe the film is just missing that something special, but I left the cinema feeling a little underwhelmed. Of course, the motion capture effects are amazing, the post-apocalyptic atmosphere is suitably bleak (power supplies have almost been exhausted and the human populace is in panic mode) and there is action aplenty, which might very well be the problem. You see, as strange as it may seem given that the majority of characters are apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very typical in both its characterisations and narrative structure.

Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up the story 10 years after the events of the previous film with the vast majority of the earth's population having been wiped out; either by the ALZ-113 virus or the violence that broke out as panic set in. A group of survivors have etched out an existence amongst the remnants of what was once San Francisco, but fuel supplies have been exhausted and an alternate power source must be found. Meanwhile, in the forests north of the city, the burgeoning ape population is living peacefully under the rule of Caesar (Andy Serkis), a benevolent dictator of sorts. When a group of humans led by Malcolm (Australia's Jason Clarke) head into the forest in an effort to repair a dam that could potentially generate power for the city, conflict ensues. Despite the best efforts of Caesar and Malcolm to hash out a peaceful co-existence between the two groups, ignorance and distrust abounds and the tensions escalate. There are the requisite bad guys on each side – Gary Oldman's Dreyfus for the humans and the scarred Koba (Toby Kebbell) for the apes – whose actions ultimately result in war between the two groups.

The attitudes and actions of key characters are a reflection of what has been happening around the world for as long as we can remember. Koba's experiences in captivity have left him with a bitter hatred of all humans, an attitude that reflects ways in which certain groups today (such as the Islamic community) are marginalised because of the actions of a few. Dreyfus, on the other hand is of the arrogant belief that they are "just apes" and thereby don't pose a serious threat. Again, how many times in history have we seen such situations where one group has such an overwhelming sense of superiority over another that they feel utterly justified in their desire to use force in an effort to secure what they want. Of course Caesar and Malcolm, who have developed a mutual respect and know that such conflict is completely unnecessary, are caught in the middle as war breaks out. The parallels to conflicts such as those in the Middle East are obvious and it is this distinct lack of subtlety that prevents the film from soaring as an engaging narrative. Reeves was obviously conscious of the need to appease an action-obsessed audience desperate for a fix of mayhem and chaos and such a focus prevents the film from offering any genuine insight into what is an utterly intriguing premise.

There is still much to appreciate in what has been achieved on a technical and aesthetic level. The motion capture work is brilliant and, even if there are a few moments where some of the apes don't look quite real, the creation of the forest world and the apes who inhabit it is remarkable; certainly a far cry from Roddy McDowall in costume in the first Planet of the Apes in 1968. As Caesar, Andy Serkis is fabulous and it is great to see that he is duly credited as the star of the film. The casting of Clarke as Norman is a good choice because he doesn't bring any pre-conceived audience expectations or the baggage of previous roles that might burden a higher profile actor. Whilst Clarke is quietly effective as Norman, fellow Aussie Kodi Smit-McPhee has little to do as his son Alexander, while Keri Russell's Ellie is the convenient love interest with requisite medical training. Perhaps the biggest disappointment amongst the cast is seeing a talented actor like Oldman confined yet again to a one-dimensional role as a bombastic, narrow-minded douchebag. Whilst there are elements that impress, Dawn of the Planet of Apes possesses neither the intelligence nor the heart of its predecessor.
Disappointing. One step forward in CGI, two steps backward in story telling6/10
I had been really looking forward to Dawn but it was a wasted opportunity in my opinion.

I liked how in the original that you felt for Caesar and the apes and their plight was a simple one in just wanting to get to the forest. Okay an origin story always offers more meat but it had me a lot more involved than Dawn which was ultimately a leadership struggle film.

I felt this film was weaker because it descended into the rather cliched dad trying to connect with his son, 2nd in command wants to take over, they have a big bust up at the end. If the main protagonists were humans and not superbly rendered apes, I think some more might think the story a little predictable, almost like the Lion King.

It's like how I thought the first was clever for showing the monkey strengths and ingenuity in outsmarting the humans. However in this film the monkeys wouldn't actually have been any good at aiming the guns or reloading. So although cool seeing them fire guns, the humans would still have had a tactical advantage.

I'm not saying this to be a spoil sport for the action scenes but it was lazy film making that the makers didn't then think of a clever way to use the monkey strengths to get round this tactical weakness.

Fox bundled the original director out of the way for daring to want to make something of equal calibre and switched in Reeves to create an inferior sequel that hit all of the generic blockbuster marks but had no real heart. Maybe this is proof that recreating the 'lightening in a bottle' of Rise does require a little more time and effort than simply throwing money at special effects.

For me it was one step forward in the technology and CGI but two steps back in the story telling. In Rise, the effects aided the story. In Dawn, they were the story.
Just. Awful.1/10
What on EARTH are the people who have raved about this film watching? Anything other than a co-ordinated, presumably paid, campaign of solicited positive reviews seems improbable to me.

I was really looking forward to seeing this film. I loved the opening movie of this new take on the franchise for it's original and thoughtful way of kick-starting an updated 21st century imagining for the birth of sentient apes. I read Pierre Boulle's "Monkey Planet" in the 70's, and loved the original series of movies (even the naffer, later ones after "escape"). This may be largely influenced by my youthful age at the time and general love of science fiction.

I have no problem with the willing suspension of disbelief or escapism. A film doesn't have to make perfect sense in "the real world" for me to appreciate it. What i do have a huge problem with, however, is the lazy and cavalier way this movie utterly cuts loose from the premise so carefully set up in "Rise", and which i was intrigued to see explored further in this plot less, pointless travesty.

There is so much wrong with this movie that i am simply unable to catalogue it, however, here are a few pointers.......

1) it is set just 10 years after "rise". Yet, in this time, the West Coast of America has in the main turned into jungle. Old petrol stations are shown looking as overgrown and integrated into the greenery as various Inca ruins look today, surrounded by mature trees that tower above them.

2) There is a massive population of smart apes who can use sign language, and some talking apes living in the jungle. Far more than the indigenous population of the west coast could ever explain (though only (count 'em) one Orangutang, called Maurice, in the film's only nice touch - a nod to Maurice Evans who played Dr Zaius in the original). He, at least, can also write, scribing "Ape not kill ape" etc on rocks, which the baby apes can presumably read??? Are you chuckling yet? In just ten short years since "rise", 100's of thousands of years of evolution have been spread liberally, though very unevenly, across this vast ape population, who presumably flew over to the states when they heard how cool the west coast was to hang out at these days. Though, even the apes who can't talk yet, sort of grab that extra bit of evolution needed to get a bit shouty when some "dramatic" piece of "plot" development spurs them individually on....

Actually, i am losing the will to go on, since i would run up against the 1000 word limit long before i ran out of ire at the lazy, trite, inconsistent, banal, cliched "plot" so i will limit myself to one more observation.

3) once the apes grab automatic weapons, as they invariably must, they become instantly proficient in their use and have the supernatural ability to summon UNLIMITED AMMUNITION from the same mysterious realm that transported them all in, forged their tree dwellings and bypassed Darwin so succinctly. Plus, they get the ability to put tanks on autopilot.

And i didn't even start on the humans tale.....what the hell was Gary Oldman thinking of, appearing in this pile of chimp manure. Or the overblown schmaltzy soundtrack, which "helpfully' illustrates important emotional, or dramatic "events" in the film.

Truly, this is an experience beyond parody. As Charlton Heston would undoubtedly have commented to the director and writers of this movie "You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell"

1/10 for very fluid CGI, though in 2014 i begin to question whether this warrants any points, such is the accepted state of the art?
Incoherent, predictable, boring.4/10
I wonder why this movie has such a high rating. This tricked me into going to the theater to watch it. So, a virus kills most people on earth. At the same time the apes evolve and become intelligent. Of course this has to happen over generations and not just by the passing of time in the same individuals, but let's say it happened. And so the plot holes begin:

All the human survivors are gathered in one building in the middle of San Fransisco. What are they eating? Do they grow the earth? -No

Do they raise livestock? -No.

Are they near a spring or well to have fresh running water? -No.

Are they dressed in animal skins or primitive hand made clothes? -No, they use 10 or 15 year old clothes and look great.

So all these people together produce a lot of waste, what happens to it? -Nothing, probably use the sewers which are capable of functioning forever without any maintenance of any kind. Probably the writers imagined the survivors using the toilet and flushing and the water appearing magically from taps, showers and toilets...

What do they really need? -Power to charge the i-Pad to see the old photos. Of course they cannot go to the nearest refinery or gas depot and fill a tanker truck, but they risk their lives going to the mountains against angry intelligent apes, because the radio uses a lot of power and the nuclear plant doesn't work any more. Makes perfect sense.

And of course when they repair the dam the power magically transfers to the city, tenths of miles far, because of course poles do not fall down and cables don't cut after 10 or 15 years without maintenance just like the sewers.

The apes can all talk, and the villain ape has English accent. They prefer to use sign language though because a language which is useless in the dark or even just when the other person is not looking at you is superior to a spoken language.

And which is the best way to test guns? By shooting them, because 10-15 years old or older guns with out any kind of maintenance never blow up in your face when you try to shoot them.

And then the apes learn to use the guns and they shoot literally thousands of rounds without ever reloading. No need to reload in wonderland... I, personally had one year of training for my military service, and I am still not sure how to use a weapon I was not trained with but hey I m not an ape!

A lot more stupidity from the writers and finally, the human warns the apes that the army is coming to wipe them out, but the ape leader which through the entire movie is depicted as intelligent, moderate and cautious does not order to hide in the woods. Instead he stays in the city waiting for the army.

The characters are a joke, especially the bad guys, and generally don't spend any money on this if you are over 16 years old. Don't watch it altogether if you are under 16 years old because it is full of stupid and meaningless violence...