“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the sequel to the 2011, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” besides the terrible naming of these movies, “Dawn” is probably the best movie of the summer. When you think of summer movies nowadays, you think of mindless bombastic action. You get something of the opposite of that with this movie as it is thoughtful and introspective and filled with tragedy.
The movie takes place a decade after the last movie. Human beings have been mostly wiped out by the virus introduced in that movie and are on the fringe. However, apes specifically the ones led by Caesar are thriving as they have developed their own society filled with sign language and limited speech. This was something unique within a summer movie as there are a lot of quiet scenes.
However the ideal life of the apes is threatened when Caesar’s group meets a group of humans co-led by Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman who does not trust the apes and wants them wiped out and Jason Clarke as Malcolm, who is much more willing to work with the apes for both groups survival. Caesar who has seen both the good and bad in humans is also willing to work with the humans but his leadership is challenged by Koba, an ape with a hatred of humanity. Needless to say war is going to break out.
It is pretty unusual for a summer movie to get so deep into the consequences of war and whatnot and specifically trust. This is where the movie shines. It has a strong story that has a heart to it and elevated by the performances of everyone involved. Like the last movie, the human characters are a bit less nuanced as the people who are playing the apes. Jason Clarke is the only human actor who really gets to show some range as Gary Oldman kind of falls into his “Gary Oldman” schtick. Andy Serkis once again shines as Caesar as you see a character who has a heavy burden placed on him as the leader of the apes and the knowing of the eventual war going on. The other actors who play the apes also are amazing.
The action scenes are strong as are the special effects. However it is the story and great acting that ultimately shines through in this movie. In the summer movie season of 2014, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” stands out as probably the best film to come out of it as it scratches a lot of itches and leaves the viewer satisfied.