Right after Rise of the Planet of the Apes one already knew that the story would continue, and that’s where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has come by. And if Rise of the Planet of the Apes only had come by in the same manner that any superhero origin story would have played out by setting up the tone for films yet to come, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes already has found itself more room to create a more distinctive identity. But being as I’ve never particularly been the hugest fan of the original film franchise, it’s nice to see that these new films are able to form an identity of their own for it takes me by surprise how much I enjoy them. These aren’t just mindless, disposable blockbusters that only find themselves living within the moment, these films leave behind an impact that calls out for far more – among many reasons I’m glad these new Planet of the Apes movies are around.
The ending of Rise of the Planet of the Apes already begged for more questions to be asked in regards to what was only going to be made of mankind’s future as the apes have only found themselves growing in spontaneous numbers. The Simian flu has already decimated the human population whereas Caesar and the other enhanced apes are already making a community for themselves, attempting to live at peace away from the humans. Perhaps answers to questions being asked about whether or not the humans and apes will find themselves able to live within peace is only going to leave behind predictable answers, and yet it doesn’t make the final product any less riveting for what it is – it also feels rewarding just watching how everything will build up. For as the first chapter had focused on how the apes had found themselves coming to be, this one only had found itself sitting within a broader canvas and thus the fact it calls for more possibilities only makes an exciting product.
In contrast to Rupert Wyatt’s efforts behind telling the story present in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Matt Reeves coming into the director’s chair has only found itself beneficial. For as functional as Rupert Wyatt’s efforts may have been in allowing a story to come and set itself in motion, Reeves, best known at the time for Cloverfield and Let Me In, creates a far more distinguishing approach that not only has resulted in a better film than its predecessor, but has also left behind one of the better blockbusters in recent memory. Many of the highlights that we remember perfectly from the predecessor, whether it be Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar or the visual effects (although they are evidently more advanced in here) come back to shine, yet not without the clear calling for more because of the canvas that Reeves has created on the screen.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finds itself spending far more time with its human characters while allowing the story of the apes to breathe in a life of their own. Because of this, it is easier to get a grasp on its own characters’ motivations whether it range from Caesar’s attempts to come at peace with the humans or Dreyfus’s intention to wipe out their race to preserve humanity. In addition to having far more compelling human characters a cast that ranges from Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Jason Clarke, far more compelling antagonist motivations are present that ultimately allow for a greater character study all the way through because Reeves doesn’t blindly paint these characters as villains for the sake of moving forward. In Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus we still feel a great resentment towards his own actions because of what measures he would take to preserve his own kind, and at the same time within Koba we have actions that make sense from perspective. They aren’t “bad” by nature, but that’s why they’ve ever managed to leave behind a great impact with their own roles.
Yet despite having so much more working efforts than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, somehow it also comes out as more expository. I appreciate how these films don’t blindly go about with painting the human race within a single-sided light, but with the obvious political allegory having already been established – one aspect in which I find myself getting more critical of Dawn comes by, it has already painted within a broader and darker canvas because it has found itself free to roam after an origin story had already been set up, but it only comes to repeat a message already having been told, thus in part it finds itself losing a sense of its own identity. Sure, there’s far more that I appreciate in the narrative that Matt Reeves has created as opposed to what Rupert Wyatt had presented only as a means of getting something done and over with, but a greater feeling of separation even from its own predecessors would also be much appreciated out of these films.
Functioning as a sequel, what Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is servicing comes more than just as one film continuing what its predecessor has already established wonderfully. Even if it may seem more expository, there’s still no denying that its freedom has also created what can easily be seen as a more confident and engaging affair altogether. These go beyond exciting action sequences and outstanding visual effects work, because Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also works beautifully in how it approaches its own characters with how they have come to be. In an age where one can dismiss blockbusters as being tiresome and repetitive, what Matt Reeves has presented with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is more than just exciting storytelling, it is fantastic blockbuster filmmaking all around.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Matt Reeves
Screenplay by Matt Reeves, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, from characters by Jaffa and Silver and a premise suggested by La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle
Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Release Year: 2014
Running Time: 130 minutes