I bought the first part of this movie on Bluray. The reason why? Well, it came with the 1968 Charlton Heston original. Fantastic! But no, I didn’t hate the first one. I actually liked it for what it wanted to be. Solid characters, some impressive VFX work and a small hint on what’s in store for the sequel.
Now that certain hint is maybe something you don’t remember too vividly since the first movie glanced over it a bit. Don’t worry though, it’s explained in the opening sequence of this second part. Some nice animation graphics and compositing work there. After that short introduction we find ourselfes a couple of decades in the future. Due to a virus, originating from the laboratory that kind of gave Caesar his intellect, mankind went almost extinct and struggles to get back on its feet.
It’s a post-apocalypse setting placed in and around San Francisco. While the humans stood in the city and built a kind of colony, the apes found a place in the Redwoods and built a nice home there as well. In order to maintain electricity for the small human colony they send out a small team to secure a dam that’s located somewhere near the woods. Man and Ape co-existed rather peacefully up until that point and barely took notice from each other. Now our team, on the search for the dam, has to cross Ape territory. That’s potential for conflict. The fact that one of the humans shoots one of the apes doesn’t help the cause.
Caesar spares the humans and allows them to explain themselfes. Both come to an agreement and the humans get safe passage to the dam. Of course there is this one human character that manages it to destroy all trust between the team and the apes. From here on out it’s a little back and forth between our small team (a father (Jason Clarke), his girlfriend (Keri Russell), his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and three helpers) and Caesar. This is the part where the movie dragged a little for me. The end of the first act basically. Even though there are some good moments in there. Especially when it pulls on your heart strings a bit.
Caesar doesn’t have the best position since he’s getting some criticism about how he’s handling the situation with the humans. Some of them argue that he’s too soft with them and would do better to send them away or kill them. Especially Koba, one of Caesars closest friends and ally. Koba is with Caesar since the beginning and was one of the apes that had a really rough time in the laboratory. So his motivation is unterstandable. He’s only seen the worst of humanity. Caesar on the other hand knows both sides of humanity. And that’s why he’s helping the team to even repair the dam.
From that point on the movie shifts gear and things start to move a little faster, without losing the emotion that it built up to this point. Koba decides that he’s not happy with the situation and discoveres that the human colony is preparing weapons. What he doesn’t know is that these weapons were not prepared for an attack. They were thought for defence. Koba starts to manipulate the apes around him and sabotages Caesar and his try to build a bridge between the humans and apes. Koba manages to get the upper hand and soon enough the ape society turned into a dictatorship of sorts. Koba leads them straight to war and attacks the human colony in San Francisco.
Like I said, I had some problems in the first act. The movie establishes a lot of things, goings ons and I didn’t know where it was going. I also didn’t know who to root for. This changed later in the movie. But to get there took a while. It’s certainly very fascinating how the movie portraits the ape society and how things are done there. They communicate via sign-language (with subtitles) and sometimes even speak. I found it very interesting that they chose to go for subtitles. It’s a point that potentially would have made the movie rather goofy. Speaking apes… you know? But they found the right solution and balance. They do speak in certain situations but it’s very animalistic and sometimes even hard to understand. The ape characters are done so extremely well that it was pretty much impossible to tell them apart from the real live footage. The CG work was exceptional. Some matte paintings looked a little rushed but that’s a nitpick. The facial expressions and the way the apes moved looked great and Andy Serkis, who made himself a name for playing CG characters like Gollum, King Kong surely did a fantastic job as Caesar here. There was a little controversy about him saying that the CG work to create the characters is far less important than his performance in the motion capturing process. I have to disagree with him wholeheartedly. While I absolutely give him credit for some outstanding work and acting, it’s maybe a 60/40 between the work of the CG department and his motion capturing. 60% of the success of his characters definitely belongs to the people who created the creatures he’s playing. Especially when looking at how insanely detailed Caesar looks in this movie. The fur, textures, lighting and so many other things (that even I have no idea of and I do kind of work in that CG field) that have to come together to make Serkis’s performance to work in the first place. Nonetheless I would applaud if Serkis would at least get an Oscar nomination. Also the fact that it were not the “stupid humans” that started the war was very welcome. Yes they started the aggression but tried to make it all good and helped the apes with some issues they had. The apes turned it into a war. I liked that. The humans and apes represented a nice mirror of how things normally work out in our world. No matter how intelligent a species may be.
This movies doesn’t need to be over 2 hourse long. There was room for trimming, especially in the first act. The main protagonists are clearly the apes. The humans felt a little flat. I also wished that Gary Oldman (playing the leader of the human colony) had more space. His character has to face some difficult decisions and there was potential for some drama. The ending part with Gary Oldman felt a little forced though. Almost out of character. I did not expect him to go that route. He seemed more intelligent than that. But anyway… the movie is worth a watch for sure.
A 7.5 for this one.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes on IMDb