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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' an epic classic summer blockbuster


The Planet of the Apes movie franchise is an interesting albeit slightly confusing one.


Dissatisfied with the mixed reception and overall results of the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake, 20th Century Fox decided to reboot the franchise ten years later with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which surprisingly was a critical and commercial success. The response to Rise was so positive that a sequel was inevitable. Article photo: dawnoftheplanetoftheapesfilmfreemegashare.wordpress.com


But despite its predecessor’s strong effort, the excitement regarding the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seemed rather muted. That’s too bad, because Dawn might not only be the surprise blockbuster hit of the summer, it might actually be the best movie of the entire summer.


Taking place a decade after Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) revolution against mankind, the apes have settled in Redwood forest at Muir Woods. Thanks to the strong leadership of Caesar, the apes have progressed in their cognitive development, and seem to be living in a relatively peaceful existence. But while the simian virus that Will Rodman (James Franco) was testing in Rise has enhanced the capacities of the ape brain, the strain turned into an epidemic that has essentially wiped out the human race. When a group of human survivors from the apes’ revolution in San Francisco encounter the apes while travelling through the woods, one of the humans panics shoots an ape, and the tribe comes to his defense. While once-tortured former lab ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) calls for the execution of the humans, Caesar, fearing the implications of an impending war, forbids the humans from entering the woods and promises death to the next human invader.


However, a generator at a dam near the apes’ territory in the woods needs to be reactivated in hopes for the living humans to survive. When Malcom (Jason Clarke) convinces the leader of the humans Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to revisit the apes’ territory, he is greeted harshly by the apes. After Malcom convinces Caesar that he means no harm and is trying to save his species, Caesar gives him and his crew three days to complete the task. Along the way, the humans and apes gain a mutual respect for each other, and for a brief time, a harmonious existence between the two parties seems possible. However, numerous incidents destroy the goodwill developed between Malcom and Caesar’s groups. And when a tragic turn of events are manipulated by Koba, a revolt of the apes against mankind resurfaces, and the human race now faces complete and utter genocide. Thus, the battle for supremacy between apes and what’s left of the human species is fully resurrected.


Where ‘Dawn’ succeeds and ‘Rise’ came up short is the choice of director Matt Reeves to emphasize the development of the apes as opposed to human character development, which should be secondary in the ‘Apes’ franchise (although this is more chronological than a shortcoming of the previous installment.) Make no mistake, this is no knock on Oldman or the other ensembles actors, namely Keri Russell and Clarke as the good-natured architect attempting to earn Caesar’s trust. The academy will never nominate an actor for his/her portrayal of an ape, but Serkis is more than Oscar worthy for his performance as a more mature and reflective Caesar. Torn between his sympathy for humanity and his desire to evolve his own species, Serkis makes the audience root for and sympathize with the apes’ struggle for peace throughout their customary but unnecessary battles with the human race. As the embittered and defiant Koba, Kebbell is the perfect foil to Serkis’ Caesar.


While the reciprocal animosity between the humans and apes becomes a little predictable, it’s more than compensated by the movie’s strong storyline and spectacular special effects, which builds upon the innovative production of ‘Rise’ (and highly recommended if seen in 3D). This time around, the apes seem to be even more animated; consistently running, shooting guns, fighting and riding horses throughout the film’s two hour and ten minute running time.


In addition, the elements of a super blockbuster outweigh the severity of the film’s often violent tone. The incorporation of the human element along with the consistent tension between the antagonist and protagonists only enhances the movie’s exciting and emotional climax, making Dawn of the Planet of the Apes one of the absolute must-see hits of the summer.



Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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