By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
It is the dawn of a war between humanity and apes. Both sides have attempted to work together for a better tomorrow, but hate and ignorance on both sides lead to fear, mistrust, communication breakdown, and eventually violence. Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? Continuing where Rise of the Planet of the Apes leaves off, Dawn advances the story into a darker and more troubling future, that, as most fans of the franchise know, will not end well for humanity. Writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bomback, and director Matt Reeves have created a frightening, beautiful and despondent story that is so intelligently conceived and brilliantly presented that I don’t believe any other tent pole film will be able to top it this summer. Typically, the dawn of a new day offers brightness and joy; however, this dawn turns gloomy rather quickly.
Human civilization has deteriorated with the viral epidemic introduced in the previous film. Great numbers of the human population have been wiped out; though there are some survivors who have a natural born immunity. As for the ape community near what was formerly San Francisco, Caesar (Andy Serkis) remains leader and has started a family with his mate Cornelia (Judy Greer). As the apes have remained peacefully secluded in their Redwood forest paradise, they have no clue as to what has happened of the human race. They definitely get a rude awakening when a group of human survivors attempt to travel through their home to a hydroelectric dam in their territory. Their goal is to restore electricity to the area so that they may communicate with others across the globe. Having reached a shaky rapport with Caesar, the leader of the group Malcolm (Jason Clarke) gets him to reluctantly agree to allow them to do their work. Hatred, fear, and mistrust on both sides threaten this fragile accord and war becomes inevitable.
Jaffa, Silver, and Bomback really have outdone themselves with this superbly written script that addresses real life issues within the dystopian context. While Rise addresses the problems associated with medical research, greed, and animal rights, Dawn deals with race relations, and how the breakdown within these relations occur. What makes their script so brilliant is that there really is no good side or bad side. Both humanity and apes have endearing qualities, reasonable intentions, and likable characters; however, they also have their flaws and weaknesses which lead to dire consequences. They actually have much in common when it comes to it comes to their fears and the hatred expressed toward one another.
Matt Reeves, cinematographer Michael Seresin, and the technical crew have crafted a gorgeous looking film that looks strikingly real with some exceptional effects, CGI, and editing. Reeves has also wonderfully crafted some amazing set pieces of dramatic, poignant, and action-oriented varieties. This truly is a remarkable summer feature that not only has a well written story and exceptional character development, but is awe-inspiring to behold on the big screen. The cast of both human characters and motion-capture apes all offer outstanding work here.
Andy Serkis’s real face may be unrecognizable to some, but his previous work is well known (Gollum, King Kong). Serkis delivers another extraordinary performance here in his reprisal of Caesar. Serkis, Greer, Toby Kebbell (Koba), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), among others all perform superbly as their respective ape characters. The tech crew use motion- capture technology to translate the acting to their CGI versions onscreen. The tech work that makes this happen is incredible and astounding, but without the talented actors performing, the result would not be the same. Dawn also features some magnificent performances by the actors starring as human characters. Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), Keri Russell (Ellie), and Alexander (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) all perform beautifully with much heart and earnestness.
As dour and despondent as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can get, it does have much heart and earnestness within its story and characters. It is a beautiful tragedy that breaks the heart, but does leave one wanting to find out what will happen next. Matt Reeves, his writers, cast and crew have delivered an epitome of what a summer blockbuster should be, and it should go without saying at this point that I highly recommend this film for masses of audiences. Fans of the franchise will absolutely marvel, but those just getting acquainted with the series will be converted into fans. It really is a must-see picture this year.