The Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprise hit back in 2011, so it was no surprise that Fox green lit a sequel. The question on everyone’s mind though was could Dawn of the Planet of the Apes work without the central relationship between Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Will Rodman (James Franco). The answer is yes, and it could work quite well.
The story takes place ten years after Rise, and the world has been decimated by a virus based on the drug that made Caesar and the rest of the Apes smarter. Only 10% of humans have survived. Meanwhile Caesar and the rest of the Apes have been busy creating their civilization in the woods above San Francisco. They care little of the plight of the humans until one shows up and shoots one of the Apes. Now Caesar will have to do everything he can to avoid war.
This story is really the natural progression of the first one. In Rise we learn how the Apes gain their intelligence, and now in Dawn we learn how they start to take over the world, but I like how that wasn’t the whole story, they also work in few observations about human nature, or should I say Ape nature? Can humans ever truly be at peace? The Apes had a chance and they failed, and the humans obviously failed. It was an interesting look at an old question.
The human cast featuring Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Keri Russell was pretty decent, but they really weren’t given a lot to do. Oldman got to be the power hungery jerk that wanted nothing but to wipe out the Apes, and Clarke just wanted everyone to get along. Russell gets to look sad and pretty. They are capable of more, but they were fine. The Ape actors really stole the show. Serkis’ Caesar was once again amazingly complex, and you could see the stresses of leadership really weighing on him. Toby Kebbell as the rebel Ape Koba was equally excellent. You could see the fear and anger driving him forward.
I also have to give a big shout out to the special effects crew. Everything looked great, and sure every now and then something looked a little off, but it was never distracting. For the most part all of the Ape actors looked real. They earned their Oscar nomination.
If the human actors were as well written and as interesting as their Ape counterparts this movie would have been great. As it is, it was still a good movie and worth watching. Not quite as good as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes managed to hold its own. Not bad for a franchise that was once thought of as a joke.