Film Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn - post

Title – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Director – Matt Reeves (Cloverfield)

Cast – Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Kerri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Gary Oldman

Plot – Set 10 years after the events of Rise, Dawn picks up the story with the Ape population led by Caesar (Serkis) living out a peaceful existence in the wild as humans the world over fall to the airborne virus unleashed upon the planet. This peaceful existence of the Apes is threatened however when a group of human survivors stumble upon their home, setting in motion a tense relationship that could lead to all-out war between desperate humans and the increasingly developed Apes.

“Apes together strong”

Review by Eddie on 14/07/2014

It’s strange in many ways yet satisfying in an industry sense that perhaps for the first or at least most noticeable time in movie history we have a film in which CGI creations well and truly overrule all human counterparts, for in Matt Reeves perfectly constructed follow up to Rupert Wyatt’s well-loved predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes use of computer wizardry, motion capture technology and motion capture performances culminate in what could be the year’s best Blockbuster.

In a film filled to the brim with memorable scenes and primate characters, Dawn’s cherry on it’s very nice top sitting alongside its stunning CGI by the ever amazing Weta group is the outstanding performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, leader of the apes and most advanced of all the hairy kind. Serkis as Caesar is the perfect moulding of character, actor and technology, with Caesar now arguably the greatest ever mo-cap creation right up there with Serkis’s other creations Gollum, King Kong and yes even those ever blue Navi’s in Cameron’s money making machine Avatar. From the close up opening through to the films satisfying conclusion, Caesar (along with his compatriots including the equally praiseworthy Toby Kebbel as Caesar’s right hand man Koba) feels completely real, an ape that feels fear, longs for love and fights for family, Caesar is for all sakes and purposes real within this film and real to the audience. While Serkis as Caesar and the apes that follow are reason enough to venture out to the multiplex and catch Dawn it all would have all amounted to nothing if it were not for Reeve’s steady hand behind the camera and the story of this newly envisioned Apes universe joining the quality party.

Reeves has been working in the industry for some time now, making his debut in 1996 as a feature length director yet not reaching his potential until found footage Sci-Fi Cloverfield made a splash in 2008. On the back of that JJ Abrams led production and following on from the underappreciated horror Let Me In, Reeves here shows a coming of age as director with an often inspired touch behind camera leading to some of the year’s most impressively staged set pieces. Moments within the film such as the Ape’s charge on the human stronghold or smaller tense moments such as Malcolm (played by Australian Jason Clarke) venturing into building overrun by some angry apes highlighting that fact that Reeves is indeed the man to take this franchise forward. While Reeves and his Ape chargers are all quite faultless there is no questioning that the film overall is brought back a peg or to by some pretty cookie cutter human participants.

Led by the aforementioned Clarke as family man Malcolm the humans struggle to remain relevant in the picture that dedicates far for more effort into the growing of the Ape legion. While Clarke is in no way bad, his reluctant hero Malcolm is far from the human lead the picture needed to jump into near perfect Blockbuster fare. With supports from the underused Kodi Smit-McPhee (the Australian youngster now well and truly grown up) as Malcolm’s son Alexander, the lame Kerri Russell as token love interest Ellie and the increasingly over the top and voice raising Gary Oldman as human leader Dreyfus, all human’s fail to register on the interest scale or likeability scale, again all culminating in the fact that our CGI beasts are the ones we are rooting for.

Dawn is by far the most impressive big budget movie unleashed so far this year. A movie that is at many times thrilling, sometimes scary and hugely impressive on a technical level, Dawn is another positive step forward in a franchise that has all of a sudden on the back of these 2 newest additions become one of the most promising properties in the Hollywood canon and if the humans can match our beloved Apes in the next instalment, the results will be quite mind-blowing.

4 angst ridden teenage apes out of 5


36 responses to “Film Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

  1. Pretty much my thoughts exactly. When the focus is on the apes, as it is most of the movie, the experience is rather amazing and immersive. What keeps holding back these films a notch or two as you pointed out are the lackluster human characters. I think Clarke does his best with he has to work with, but it isn’t much and everyone else is rather bland in comparison to the simian cast. I was also surprised at how small Oldman’s role was. He was pretty much a nonfactor in this movie.

    Still, the apes are the stars of these films so they’re the reason that this franchise works. I was particularly impressed by Koba’s character almost as much as Caesar. He was a great villain 😀

    • Man great to see we are on the same page. It’s a great sentiment that on Koba, without him Caeser would have had no one as his equal. Can’t wait for the next one mate 🙂

  2. I found it very frustrating. Visually, it was stunning (it looked like a collaboration between Maxfield Parrish and Steve Ditko) but the plot was full of major holes that I just couldn’t ignore. You would think that a film with a budget this large could afford to hire a consultant who would advise them on how hydroelectric plants work. Or radios, for that matter.

    • Good points Misha although watchers such as me would be none the wiser to such things especially in a big budget fair like this as per the usual it’s the case of money doesn’t normally go towards finer details being ironed out as the average popcorn munching watcher would not much care for science and the likes. Glad you dug the awesome visuals though.

  3. Don’t think the humans are meant to be factored into the overall picture in the first place, unlike say Godzilla, which was a disaster movie with humans at the focal point. DotPotA is after all is primarily based on the apes attempting to co-exist with the dwindling humans, not the other way around, effectively rendering the humans as side-characters. So the cookie cutter humans, bar Malcolm, aren’t all that important. Great review nonetheless, though I was expecting a perfect score.

    • Very nice points Mark, as much as I would of loved to have given this perfect marks I do like my humans a tad more interesting (if they go to the trouble of including them) and a very blockbuster clichés ruined what was otherwise a thrilling ride.

  4. still haven’t seen it i won the preview tickets but i was sick so couldn’t go but it sounds good thanks for the review.

  5. I tried to tell jordan this would be good..

    His response was something along the lines of ‘im sure it would be, but I cant bring myself to watching a bunch of monkeys trying to be people..’

    Apparently he’s much too intelligent for this. Maybe your review will change his mind?

  6. Good review Eddie. It was a bit better than the first, which mainly has to do with the fact that the emotions here run higher and are definitely fueling everything that makes this story so exciting.

    • Exciting is a good word dude, it seems like this story line is going to some very interesting places and I really hope they capitalise on the next one.

  7. You’re spot on about the human characters, most of them were quite underwhelming and a few were, dare I say, a bit Mary Sue. After reading this I see now the parallel between the human characters and the ape characters, Malcolm and Caesar and to a vague point near the end, Koba and Dreyfus (the latter having more justification). While the apes had magnificent character development the human characters elicited only two mundane thoughts from me, being “hey what a nice guy” vs “oh he’s a bit of a jerk now.” Kind of emphasising Caesar’s point of him realising the similarity between apes and humans. It was just as good as the first but in a different way. Great review!

    • Cheers Student! I have a feeling the next instalment may feature even more prominently the apes and the humans may become a true background feature, which isn’t a bad thing if they were to be so one noted.

    • Good to hear mate. If Serkis doesn’t get some recognition for his work here I fear he may never get his dues, but it is unquestionable that his mo cap work has been truly outstanding his whole career.

  8. My brother and I are planning on seeing this film tomorrow. This review got me excited…although I will be rolling my eyes nonstop at the token love interest

  9. I agree with you guys completely about the human counterparts – they were mostly props if you ask me. King Serkis is outstanding and so was Kebbel! Really glad to hear that you guys enjoyed “Dawn” as much as I did! 🙂

  10. Pingback: Opinion Piece: Could Guardians of the Galaxy be this years best Blockbuster? | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  11. Pingback: Film Review – Everest (2015) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  12. Pingback: Film Review – War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  13. Pingback: 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2022 | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  14. Pingback: Film Review – The Batman (2022) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s