Josh and Violet share their spoiler-free male vs. female perspective reviews of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves, and starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Keri Russell! How did they each rate the film out of 10? Read on to find out!
His Movie Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:
So, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (man that is a mouth full) came out this weekend, a movie about a bunch of apes. For someone who has not heard anything about the film series, this title sounds like a silly B film that can’t possibly be good in any light. But most people have heard of Planet of the Apes, the sequels, then the terrible remake, which starred Mark Wahlberg which released in 2001. Then in 2011, another film came along. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco was released, and it truly seemed to be just another way for the film industry to make some money off of an already established franchise. There is no way this could be a good film, right? The concept and story feels dated, and the disaster in 2001 really seemed to set Rise of the Planet of the Apes up for disaster. To my and much of everyone’s surprise the film was received well by critics (receiving a 82% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes). So the biggest question coming into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is this: Can the Planet of the Apes franchise keep the momentum going again?
So before I answer that question, let’s begin with a brief synopsis (spoiler free, for the new film at least!) of the film. For those who haven’t seen the first one, the main character of the film (surprise surprise) is a chimpanzee. Named Caesar, in the first film he was the offspring of an ape who was experimented on with a drug meant to assist Alzheimer’s patients with recovery, which inadvertently provided Caesar with enhanced intelligence. Eventually in the first film, now that Caesar has the intellect, he begins to realize the inequalities between humans and apes, and ushers in a plan to help his fellow captives escape an abusive “sanctuary” that Caesar winds up in. Caesar then is able to secure more of the drug that enhanced his intellect, and provides it to some of his fellow apes. Then the apes make an escape in to the Redwoods of California, and that is where the first film leaves of.
So what we learn from the trailers for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a virus (which was hinted at in the first film) has wiped how practically all of humanity. We only see the effects directly in California, but it can be inferred that if there is any government left, it is in disrepair. The apes have carved their own society out, away from humans, and this movie begins 10 years after the disease (known as the Simian Flu). San Francisco is completely overgrown, the humans have no power, and are hanging on by a thread. The story primarily follows that of the apes: Caesar (reprised by Andy Serkis), Koba (Caesar’s seemingly second in command and played by Toby Kebbell, and Blue Eyes (played by Nick Thurston). For the humans, the story follows that of the town’s leader, Dreyfus (played by Gary Goldman, and a few of the citizens of the city: Malcolm, (Jason Clarke), Ellie (Keri Russell), and Alexander (Kodi Smith-McPhee).
So as the movie progresses, various interactions and conflicts begin to arise between apes and humans. Some of the interactions are innocent in nature, to which the adversary takes as a threat, while other actions are deliberate attempts to stir the pot of the conflict even more. There is a lot of betrayal and treachery in the film on both sides, which can’t help but boil over in some form or another.
So how does the film do? If Rotten Tomatoes is any authority on the matter, it would say it is doing very well critically. According to their site, it is holding well in the low 90% range. The film made $73 million this weekend, far above the projected amount, and it is expected to do very well overseas. Overall, the praise and success of the film is well deserved.
There is a lot to enjoy about this film. One of the biggest praises for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has to be Caesar. Andy Serkis, who is known for his motion capture work (starting with Lord of the Rings as Gollum) is amazing, really bringing Caesar to life. Then, thrusting Caesar into his leadership role, in which he must make difficult choices for both apes and humans makes you really feel for him. How the story was written really adds depth to Caesar’s character which is the enhanced by the motion capture work and then further by the special effects team that brings Caesar to the screen. Caesar is torn by his loyalty to apes, attachment to humanity and bound to his own personal morals. It is really great, but also heart-wrenching watching Caesar try to tread through the land mines which could go off at a moment’s notice, while still trying to do what is “right”.
Malcolm’s journey through the film was a great one as well. Jason Clarke portrayed him very well, and again, this was another character where the depth is really there. He is a man trying to help his fellow humans, but will not do it at the expense of sacrificing his own morals.
The special effects as a whole were great. I have to continue to praise them, as what this film can do–motion capturing dozen of apes on the screen at one time–is amazing. Sort of ironically, there was a bear towards the beginning of the film which I thought could have been done a little better, but other than that, the effects were stupendous.
There is one problem that I had with the film, which plagued the entire thing for me. It is not something that often is even noticed for me, but it stood out like a sore thumb. The musical score was really bothersome to me for most of the film. Perhaps intentional, but the music felt really dated. Every time the music would start up, I would cringe a little, and it was pretty distracting for me.
The last small knit-pick I have with the film is the ending. I really feel that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and seemingly shows the main characters of the film resigning to fate. What was really bothersome about this, is that the ending seemed to be done this specific way in order to line up the sequel.
Overall I would give the film an 8 out of 10. Caesar really steals the show in the film. The story was excellent, special effects top notch, and despite my complaints about the ending of the film, I am looking forward to the sequel, and seeing where it takes us.
Her Movie Review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), and once again uses motion capture to portray Andy Serkis as the ape Caesar, while also starring Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Jason Clarke as humans.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which the apes got smart thanks to James Franco’s character, Will, attempting to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. At the beginning of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes we see that in addition to making apes more intelligent, Will’s attempted cure also resulted in a virus that wiped out most of humanity.
The beginning of the movie starts out in the middle of the woods, and we soon learn that Caesar is not only the leader of a large number of apes, but that he is also a family man, with a wife, son, and baby. The apes mostly communicate through sign language, and their society seems to be secluded from the rest of the world. You almost wonder if in fact there are any humans left, when all of a sudden the apes come across a small group of humans. Caesar yells at the humans to go, and they get out of there in a hurry – back to the ruins of San Francisco.
It turns out that the reason for the humans’ trip into the woods was to get to a dam and get it working again so that it can be a power source for the city. But with the apes living up there and blocking their way, that won’t be possible. The only way for the humans to get what they want is to try to make peace with the apes, but with humans not trusting apes and apes not trusting humans, that turns out to be much easier said than done.
When I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was skeptical, and wasn’t sure it would be any good. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how well done it was. As a result, my expectations were pretty high for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I know, I know, usually when you set your expectations high, you’re just setting yourself up to be let down. However, this is one of the rare instances where a movie actually lived up to those high expectations.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was very beautifully done. The scenery of the redwood forest where the apes made their home was a great natural setting. I also liked the movie’s take on what an overgrown, post-apocalyptic San Francisco would look like. It was all very haunting how realistic it looked.
If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I’m very critical of CGI, especially when it comes to how animals look. With the exception of the bear, which looked super fake, the CGI was stunning! The apes all looked so lifelike. You really feel immersed in this world that the movie creates. Well done.
Also well done was the acting, not only in regards to the human characters, but by those who were in motion capture roles playing the parts of apes as well, especially Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar. This was a very dramatic, emotional movie, and the actors really brought that to the forefront and made you feel it.
Not to mention that having a “virus that wipes out most of humanity” premise (my favorite!) captured my heart from the get go. I really liked how the movie started off by showing you how the virus spread, and how the virus affected humanity, until every light was extinguished. Some movies don’t put very much effort into the explanation aspect of a contagion’s spread, and you’re left wondering how it happened. But I felt the opening montage did a good job of setting the tone for rest of the movie. Yeah, I’m just creepy like that I guess. However, aside from the virus premise, the characters captured my heart as well. There are some frustrating parts in the story though, where you question whether someone would actually be that unreasonable, or whether certain actions were necessary, or why certain actions were not taken. It’s also sad how the actions of one individual, whether human or ape, can affect things for everyone else so drastically.
Knowing that this is a prequel to the original 1960s Planet of the Apes movies, at times it feels like things are too predictable in this movie, since you already know essentially how things will end up. But don’t worry, there are also some surprises, as well as nods not only to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but also to the original movies.
I felt like things were left very unresolved at the end of the film, not only with respect to certain events, but also in regard to certain characters. Definitely looking forward to the sequel, which is due out in 2016.
My rating: 8.5/10