Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: A beautifully produced film that once again gets to show off the brilliance of Andy Serkis of Gollum fame. Some third act implausibilities spoil the movie some, but it’s still a worthy successor to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.
Andy Serkis is pretty awesome. He plays Caesar, the leader of the ape tribe that escaped in the end of the previous movie as it maintains its empire 10 years later. Serkis does all of the acting for Caesar, the movements, the voice, the facial expressions. He does such a good job that Caesar might as well be human. That isn’t to say that the other apes are two-dimensional, but Serkis makes Caesar almost four-dimensional.
The other headliner apes are also well played and the personality of each was well fleshed out, all without words being spoken, but with sign language and facial expressions. Not an easy feat. My only complaint about the apes in general was the insistence of the director to adorn the female apes with jewelry so the audience could distinguish sex. Maybe there’s something else going on there that I just don’t recognize, though. It was also annoying how much of a backseat the female apes took given that I’m pretty sure that most ape societies are fairly egalitarian about such things.
While the apes definitely stole the show, there were some good human performances as well. Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman play the leaders of New San Francisco, with Jason being the ape friendly one and Gary being the ape hostile one. As with the ape society, the human society was very patriarchical with only one female (Keri Russel) given any real role to play. At least they didn’t make her the damsel in distress, which they very well could have.
The plot is mostly believable except for a few sticking points. There’s a part in the beginning where Ceasar claims they haven’t seen humans in 2 years which seems unlikely given how close New San Francisco is, but it’s really a throw away point that doesn’t add or detract from the story. Then there’s the apes’ use of guns. What do you think would happen if an ape society that has absolutely no experience with guns suddenly gets hold of an arsenal and attacks the humans with it? The apes would pretty much accidentally slaughter each other in the attack. But no. In this, they are really good marksapes and are able to perform a successful frontal assault on the heavily guarded human position. I know, this was for special effects fun and allowed the movie to keep moving, but it still bothers me.
Aside from those minor quibbles, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a good time and I would highly recommend it. Be sure to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” first if you haven’t yet. It’s not necessary to see the first, but it will add some context and it’s really a better movie in general.