Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dawn of the Panet of the Apes Review

Back in 1968 Charleton Heston's Planet of the Apes was a major critical and financial success. The movie spawned four immediate sequels and two TV shows throughout the 70's and is still considered a classic, even though those sequels and TV shows didn't quite get the same reaction. In 2001 Tim Burton remade the movie and while it was a financial success, audiences didn't go for it and thus no sequels were made. Ten years later the series was up for reboot once again and with all the past failures outside the original movie it can be understood why there wasn't a whole lot of hype leading into Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  However, Rise took pretty much everyone by complete surprise by being an excellent movie. Going into it, I personally didn't know what to expect, but I was immediately blown away. In fact, Rise ended up as one of my favorite movies of 2011. Because of this, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of my most anticipated movies of this year. I became even more excited when the reviews came out calling the movie excellent. After seeing it, I am happy to add my voice to the many who have praised it. Dawn is a very worthy sequel to Rise and together they are forming one of the better movie franchises of this generation.

In rebooting the franchise, Rise and Dawn have taken a completely different approach than the original and I think that is a big part of the reason why they have succeeded. Now I wasn't alive in 1968 for the premier of Charleton Heston's Planet of the Apes, but I imagine it was a pretty trippy experience. A group of people land on this foreign planet where apes rule and humans are the slaves. At the end of the movie they realize that it is in fact a post-apocalyptic Earth where apes have taken over. The next movie takes place after the first, but then in movie three through five, certain apes go back in time and then we are told the story of how Earth got to the point where it is. While Tim Burton's 2001 remake tried this same approach and failed, Rise of the Planet of the Apes started by actually going in chronological order. We don't start with an ape-ruled planet while telling the origin story later. We start with the origin story of how the apes took over. That was intriguing because we know how the story ends, but we don't know how they get to that point.

In talking about the plot of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I'm going to say a lot less than I usually do when I do my reviews. I went into this movie thinking that the final trailer had given away a lot of the movie, but was pleasantly surprised when I learned it actually gave away very little. We know based off the end of Rise that the apes have run off to a secluded part of the woods to live by themselves. They want peace. We also know from trailer footage that there will be a war between the apes and the humans. I was ready for a simple plot with lots of epic ape battles, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more to it than that. After refreshing myself on the original Planet of the Apes series, I did learn that there is actually a lot of similarities between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the fifth and final installment in the original series Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but I won't specify what. And I feel comfortable saying this because there are enough differences that you can't just go read the plot summary of that movie and know exactly what happens in Dawn simply because the origin story of the original series involved this odd paradox of apes from the future travelling to the past and creating their future. This time around it was a science experiment gone wrong. So yes, it's a lot different. But imagine taking Battle for the Planet of the Apes and using some interesting parts of that while refining the poor parts to make an overall epic Planet of the Apes movie. That's what you get with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn has been called by some as the Empire Strikes Back of the Planet of the Apes movies. This is a comparison that I actually agree with, but allow me to explain why. First off, the makers know what they are doing with this series. This isn't a situation where they come up with a second one just because the first was successful. They had an end goal in mind. When you have an end goal in mind, there is an almost formulaic beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning, the world is set up. The middle part intensifies and is thus either more dark and grim or simply more action-packed. Then we have our grand finale. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are two movie franchises that have done this to perfection. To save time, I will let you go through the specifics of those franchises. Now that you have done so, I am proclaiming that Planet of the Apes is also following this formula pretty dang good. Rise set the scene and thus is more story-based with some awesome ape action towards the end. Dawn has intensified and is thus more packed with epic ape battles while being less focused on story and development, because that development took place with Rise. Thus we can say that Dawn is the Empire Strikes Back of the Planet of the Apes movies because it follows the Empire Strikes Back formula. Or better yet, a comparison to The Two Towers might fit even more. When you think of The Fellowship of the Ring, you think of mainly this epic journey that has begun. When you think of The Two Towers, you think of the Battle at Helm's Deep. Such is Dawn. Now in using these comparisons, I'm not saying that it is as good as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I'm just saying it follows the same formula and because of that it is pretty dang epic.

Now after all of that, I want to quickly dive into some specifics of what made this movie awesome. First off, just like Rise, this movie is visually brilliant. As Andy Serkis mentioned in an interview with Conan, they used a performance-capture technology to create the apes. I think this is the same thing as motion-capture, but correct me if I'm wrong. Point is, Andy Serkis and company learned how to act like apes and all the movement of the apes in the movie is all what the actors have done. This isn't just 100 percent CGI apes with voices provided by Andy Serkis. This is a legit man acting like an ape performance that rivals any performance you'll ever see. This is why Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar. He is one of the most talented men in the business and if the Academy completely overlooks him again, they should be ashamed of themselves. In addition to the visual effects and the dominate performance by Andy Serkis, the story is brilliant and moving. The ape action is completely epic. The music done by LOST composer Michael Giacchino is beautiful. Overall, this is a very well-done movie.

Now in giving my grade for this movie, this is where things get a bit complex. If I were judging this franchise as a whole (Rise + Dawn), I would give this super high marks. Here we have a franchise that knows where it's going. The first two movies added together paint a brilliant picture that make you confident when the franchise is complete will be one of the greatest movie franchises of this generation. Yes, there have been certain movies in franchises that are better than Rise and Dawn individually, but due to less than epic sequels, their franchise as a whole doesn't equal this new Planet of the Apes franchise. However, I am not judging this Planet of the Apes franchise as a whole in this review. I am only judging Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And I will be honest and say that there are movies this year that I have enjoyed more than Dawn in terms of pure entertainment and there have been movies that I would rank higher than Dawn because of an emotional response that I got from them. So no, this isn't my favorite movie of the year or even my favorite movie of the summer. But it is a dang good one that is right on par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past and thus my grade for Dawn will be the same grade that I gave those four movies. Yes, Dawn gets a 9/10 from me.

P.S.- In comparing Dawn to Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers, it's worth noting that I typically have found myself enjoying the third chapter of these franchises a bit more. Thus I hope that the third Planet of the Apes movie (untitled and scheduled for 2016), becomes my Return of the Jedi or Return of the King. Can't wait!!


  1. I haven't been here in forever! But anyway, just wanted to say that your review makes me want to see the movie :-). I enjoyed Rise quite a bit, though I did have to close my eyes a couple times (I'm a huge chicken). Now I need to go read your review of Days of Future Past, even though I've actually seen that one (so incredibly good!!!).

    1. Welcome back!! And I hope your life is fantastic! Yes, this one and future past were both excellent. And being that I am usually opposite when it comes to X-Men movies, that's saying a lot. And hey, while you're at it, make sure you go like my new facebook page: