A decade after the events of the first film. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is content and at peace as the leader of the ape colony. Sure that humanity is extinct from the Simian Flu, he is happy. Though, he’s quickly proved wrong when they encounter small clusters of them in the forest. He attempts to make good with them if they cooperate. They reach a brittle peace, but it doesn’t last long when Koba (Toby Kebbell) tries to kill one of the humans. This brutal act of treason provokes an army of human survivors, and the war for the world begins. And the question really is: will humanity go back to their former glory of being number one, or will the apes take the mantle and rule instead?
Dawn continues to improve on the quality of CGI that Rise introduced to us. We’re in a time where CGI is criticised for being overused and often with no payoff in quality. But not so in these films. The level of skill in the constructed of the Apes is high, but also much of the environment has to be admired too. It’s easy to forget that we’re watching the likes of Judy Greer (Ant-Man), Andy Serkis (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Toby Kebbell (Kong: Skull Island) as motion capture characters and not real-life apes on screen. No this is no David Attenborough documentary epic, but it is epic in the high skill of the acting talent involved, whether they be humans or primates.
Every other aspect of this movie has been executed really well too: The score by Michael Giacchino (Star Trek) fits and is a doorway to the soul of what is taking place on screen. The hauntingly beautiful images on screen are a prime example of what can be accomplished with the 12 rating without reducing it to the sparkles of a Marvel superhero movie. I guess we have director Matt Reeves (Let Me In) and Director of Photography / cinematographer Michael Seresin (Harry Potter and the Prisoner Azkaban) to thank for the cinematic genius there. Though, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out in 2014 too and that’s not your standard Marvel movie.
But at the centre of this is also the reason why the action sequences in the climax have a very real impact on the viewer. The chaos gets to you. The war, so to speak, is a the climax of the build-up in Rise and what had happened thus far in Dawn. It’s a well-told story with great characters. The tragedies of both species are very real that can be compared to human history and the present day, whether that be in our wars and social realities / fictions in a way that shows that all it takes is one bad day from being the biggest predator on the food chain to a neanderthal being grateful for any scraps you can get. And when it comes down to it, we will do what it takes to survive, us or them.
From the performances to the CGI to its very relevant portrayal of humanity, Dawn of the Planet of Apes is not your standard summer blockbuster. Starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Kerri Russel and Jason Clarke, and directed by Matt Reeves, this is my favourite of the trilogy. And what an incredible it is.
Dawn is allegorical of why we go to war, and just because it’s dressed up as fiction, that doesn’t make it any less true