I got into an advanced screening of this film, and I could not be any happier that this was the first film I got a chance to see before its formal release.
For those of you who are new here, I never do spoilers in a post that is not marked spoilers, and since the movie isn’t even out yet, I would not ruin it for you.
So Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I first saw about 3 weeks ago. After I saw Rise I was really excited for Dawn. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a great origin story with compelling characters and a straightforward plot. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a very dark and emotional character driven story that layers in elements of conflict, revenge and several other themes. This movie is a complete leap from its predecessor, and I will talk about how before I talk about any performances or direction.
This movie is much darker than Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Some reviews have called it the “Empire Strikes Back” or “Dark Knight” of its series. I do disagree with those statements, though less with the second. This movie definitely has a Dark Knight Rises feel to it, at least in the second half. The first half is a really fascinating and less action-packed look at the apes civilization and the human struggle for survival. But then the second half is when those two collide and conflict. The first half really reminded me of The Walking Dead because we have survivors and they’re faced with a mysterious apocalyptic threat. Then the second half was Dark Knight Rises because it was all about darkness and hope and family and loss and had lots of beautiful-looking action. The film was a very big departure from the original, which is usually a problem in the cinema, but in this case, it was so different it worked.
And speaking of different, the directing of this movie. Oh my God, the directing! I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was directed well and, as I said, was very straightforward as a movie. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, however, was a film. I like the directing in this movie a lot more than the direction of the first film because director Matt Reeves knew when to shoot emotional shots and how to do action in a completely believable way. The film felt like it was directed by Christopher Nolan’s action emotion and darkness, combined with David Fincher’s elegance. The only other notable credit that Matt Reeves has to date is Cloverfield which wasn’t bad from what I remember, but I want to see this guy do more movies!
Then the acting, which was impressive to me. I really liked James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so I thought it would be hard to be the human lead in the sequel. Though I didn’t think Jason Clarke was as good or likable as Franco, I really liked the family-man story he has, and how he’s a real optimist about the apes. His role could however have been played by anyone, including Bradley Cooper, who he looks A LOT like. Then Gary Oldman is in the movie? He’s definitely in more a supporting role, which is a bummer since the trailer showed a lot of his coolest moments. His character is really well-developed and well-delivered for what small a role he had, and that’s nice to see the time put in. And Andy Serkis as Caesar? Probably my favorite performance of the year so far. (Yeah all of you Fault in Our Stars fangirls, take to the comment section…) Andy Serkis is emotional and damaged and intelligent and a great leader as Caesar, and he’s one of those characters that gets better the more you see of him. There’s no more praise I can give to him than what hasn’t already been said.
And speaking of Caesar, the special effects in this movie were stunning. They were all realistically breathtaking and well-CG’ed. I saw the movie in 3D, but you really don’t have to in order of getting the full enjoyment. It’s just as stunning in 2D. Save yourself those three extra bucks.
The only real complaint I could think of you guys having with the movie is that the first half is just a tiny bit slow. I didn’t have an issue with it because it pays off later, and is really fascinating, but if I were to knit-pick a negative, that would be the negative.
So we have a movie that combines The Walking Dead with The Dark Knight Rises, has some fantastic directing, great performances especially from Andy Serkis, layered morals and themes running throughout the movie and breath-taking special effects. It’s so refreshing to have a second one of the year: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is…
So guys those are my EARLY thoughts on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I’ll be seeing a super-early screening of Into the Storm on Thursday night too, but won’t get my review of that out until the week of its formal release, just out of respect to the studio. Anyway, what are your thoughts on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (if you’ve see it)? Whatever those thoughts may be, let me know down below, and as always, thanks for reading guys.