Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Review Nature v Nurture Matt Reeves | July 11, 2014 Despite its summer blockbuster pedigree, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (DPA), attempts to ask philosophical questions. Is there evil in the world? Are prejudices learned behavior? What does it mean to be a hero? Don’t let the philosophy 101 spoken through sign language and broken English fool you, this film is an action-adventure romp through its core. Ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes (RPA), Caesar leads a thriving community of apes (monkeys, gorillas, orangutans and the like). Humanity is on the verge of extinction due to the “Simian flu.” Caesar and one of his advisors wonder if the humans are still around…of course they are, this film needs conflict. The story revolves around how these two societies, one ascending and the other falling, interact with each other for what they perceive to be the greater good. What is a Critical Hit! The CGI apes look amazing. When standing still, riding horses or bounding around battles like the most skilled Jedi, the apes are fantastic. The primary core of named apes, carry distinct markings and personality traits. These personalities are fleshed out in their movements, word choice and actions. These characters are easy to understand archetypes that any fan can follow. The story is willing to take risks. A large portion of the movie involves scenes without a human character; which is surprising seeing as the first insisted on focusing on James Franco. The action, character arcs and emotional moments all feature the apes. Humans are more of a means to introduce conflict and offer another take on the situation but this movie’s most memorable moments involve non-human characters. Andy Serkis delivers his best performance to date as Caesar. The range of emotions and subtlety within his motion captured performance rivals most Hollywood performances. Even actors who are underutilized manage to turn in a solid showing while on screen, looking at you Gary Oldman. DPA manages to be a standalone entry part of a greater narrative. At no point is RPA mandatory viewing to understand the sequel and the story does come to a natural conclusion. There is plenty of room to maneuver a third installment, but this episode tells a complete tale without a to be continued. What is Not Very Effective… As good as the apes appear on screen, they are lost in the crowd. Outside of the core group, every other ape and human are disposable. They are present for large crowd shots but don’t mean much to the narrative. Even members of Caesar’s family exist as plot devices or background fodder instead of actual characters. In some large group shots, it appears that the apes are literally copies of each other as they have the same markings. As much as DPA attempts to not just be about explosions and fight scenes, at its core that is what this film is. There is an obvious villain at play, with no redeeming qualities and a hero for fans to root for. No character offers much in the way of complexity and they play out their roles as expected. The apes are an intelligent growing society, but they still make a handful of dumb mistakes. The same can be said for humans whose actions can only be forgiven because it pushes the plot forward. Otherwise one has to question how they survived this long. These mistakes set off the chain reactions for the movie’s conflict. Status Summary DPA is a great summer blockbuster that offers a gripping story of good versus evil. There are times when the imagery and symbolism are a little heavy-handed but ultimately you want to see this movie for ape combat. The characters embody their stereotypes which can be this film’s greatest strength, or weakness depending on your perspective. If you prefer movies to commit to dramatic moments or over the top explosions, then this is one film you don’t want to monkey around with. If you enjoy movies with solid choreographed fight scenes, light philosophical questions and an battle of morals, then DPA is worth rising for. Score: 8.0 /10 + Andy Serkis as Caesar + Ape combat looks amazing + Summer Blockbuster with Thought – Humans don’t matter – Predictable Plot Level Up, Friends!