Today, I watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (I will call it Dawn from now on as the title is 3 syllables too long). It was really, really good. The film allows the viewers to explore this world where apes reigned supreme rather intelligently and did not spoonfeed us that much. I was thoroughly impressed.
The plot follows Caesar, the ape from the first film, as the leader of the apes that escaped to the forest (as shown by the first film). The film is set 10 years after the events of its predecessor. While walking through the forest, Caesar’s son Blue Eyes and Rocket’s son Ash encounter a human. The human, Carver, panics and shoots Ash, killing him. Carver calls for the rest of his small party of survivors, led by a man named Malcolm, while Blue Eyes calls for the other apes. Caesar orders the humans to leave. The remaining humans in San Francisco, genetically immune to the virus, are living in a guarded tower within the ruined city. Prompted by Koba (from the first film), Caesar brings the apes to the city where he orders the humans to never enter ape territory again. Malcolm convinces his fellow leader Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman (a.k.a Commissioner Gordon) to give him three days to reconcile with the apes to gain access to a hydroelectric dam in their territory, which could provide long-term power to the city. Dreyfus, distrustful of the apes, arms survivors using an abandoned armory. Caesar allows Malcolm to work on the dam’s generator, provided they surrender their guns. As Malcolm, his partner Ellie, and son Alexander work, they bond with the apes. Mutual distrust of both sides gradually subsides but trust momentarily comes to a standstill when Carver threatens Caesar’s newborn with a concealed weapon. The sides reconcile as Ellie is allowed to treat Caesar’s ill wife Cornelia with antibiotics. Meanwhile, Koba discovers the armory and confronts Caesar, questioning his allegiance. In response, Caesar heavily beats Koba, but refuses to kill him and forgives him. Koba returns to the armory and, after murdering two human guards, steals an assault rifle. He then kills Carver, stealing his lighter. The dam is eventually repaired, restoring power to the city. During the celebration, Koba, unnoticed, has the apes’ home set ablaze. Unseen by anyone else, Koba and Caesar lock eyes as Koba shoots Caesar in the chest, causing him to presumably fall to his death. In the panic of the loss of the Alpha and the fire, Koba takes charge, placing the blame on Malcolm’s group and orders the apes to war against the humans. Malcolm’s group hides as Koba leads the apes into San Francisco. They plunder the armory and charge the tower’s gates. Despite heavy casualties, the apes overrun the tower and imprison all the humans as Dreyfus flees underground. When Ash refuses Koba’s orders to kill unarmed humans, citing Caesar’s teachings, Koba kills Ash and jails all apes loyal to Caesar. Malcolm’s group find Caesar barely alive and transport him to his former home in San Francisco. Caesar reveals to Malcolm that Koba shot him, realizing his notion that all apes were better than humans was naive. As he enters the city to find medical supplies so Ellie can operate on Caesar, Malcolm encounters Blue Eyes and reunites the two. Caesar grows nostalgic examining mementos from his childhood home as Malcolm learns of Caesar’s past. Blue Eyes then frees the caged humans and the apes loyal to Caesar. The freed apes join Caesar and confront Koba at the summit of the tower. After leading the apes to the tower unseen, Malcolm encounters Dreyfus, who informs him that his men have made radio contact with more survivors, located at a military base up north, on their way to help fight the apes. While Caesar and Koba battle, Malcolm fails to prevent Dreyfus from detonating C-4 explosives underneath the tower. The resulting explosion kills Dreyfus and collapses part of the tower. Caesar overpowers Koba and, while lifting Koba from a ledge, refuses to save him, claiming he is no longer a true ape, and lets him fall to his death. Malcolm informs Caesar of the impending arrival of human reinforcements. Both lament the lost opportunity for peace. Caesar tells Malcolm the humans will never forgive the apes for the war they started and tells him to leave with his family for safety. As Malcolm slips away into the shadows, Caesar stands before a kneeling mass of apes with his family.
The plot is very well done as it moves rather smoothly allowing for some intimate scenes and some action sequences. On one hand, some action sequences were a bit forced. On the other, there was a need for some action to liven up the emotional bits.
In relation to its predecessor, this film allows the audience to learn what happened to both the apes and the humans and how they view each other. It was extremely clever in its cinematography to show how contrasting the varying environment appear to the differing view points. When Malcolm goes into ape territory, he sees skulls and dead wood, making the apes seem savage or scary and when the apes enter into human territory, they see chaos. Whereas when both factions are in their own territory, the audience can see the comfort they experience.
Most of the times when a sequel does not make much reference to the previous movie, I would find it hard to consider it a sequel. However, this film has been able to work well as a standalone movie and it did not have to rely on it being a sequel. Hence, they never really shown much about the past. Heck, they even killed off the main human cast of the previous film.
Speaking of human cast, I believe that the humans were rather meh except for Dreyfus. There was this one scene which I felt was a bit out of character but was still clever nevertheless. When Dreyfus finds photo’s of his children, he starts tearing up as they most probably have died from the Simian flu. This establishes that he is not just the human antagonist but he is doing what he thinks is right, not just what is correct. This justifies him attempting to destroy all the apes with C4 even at the cost of his life. However, Dreyfus killing himself was a bit dumb by my opinion as he could have just listened as he seemed to be smarter than that.
Malcolm’s character was a bit too bland for my tastes. There was little to no development for him, he was just established as a character and we were supposed to assume it to be so. His son, however, had some development albeit forced.
I hated Carver. I am beginning to feel that anyone with the name Carver is an arse (I watched some playthroughs of the Walking Dead video game). He was not just an unlikable character but a really stupid one. I should be proud with the film for making a character I despise but with him, I just hate him so much. Normally, when a film creates an unlikable character, they would put at least have some redeeming factors in the film. He was an asshole from the start to the finish.
Onto the apes. The cast of apes are pretty much most of the apes from the first film. I loved the apes. Their characters were simple and nice, until they started talking. I know it is just a sign of evolution due to the Simian Flu but I just felt that by allowing some of them to talk, it detracted from the raw emotion that they were portraying through acting and emoting.
Koba’s character was rather well done as he was an established character from the first film. He is supposed to be loyal but his hatred for mankind for what they did to him overran his loyalty for Caesar. They didn’t make him unlikable as he had his reasons and I liked that.
In the end, the film was amazing and it is a must watch. The plot was good, the emotions were there. The characters could have been a bit better but the ape characters were great. Watch it now!
General enjoyability: 9.5/10