War has descended upon the apes.
Wars start for reasons large and small: For a perceived personal slight. Assassinations or assassination attempts. For God, Glory and Gold. Over a woman. For love. For power and greed.
Dawn of the Plant of the Apes explores many of these concepts in a surprisingly Shakespearean manner. What I truly loved about this movie was the “heart” of it. This wasn’t a movie that told the story of evil apes or evil humans, but of family and survival. What would you do to protect your family? How far would you go to protect not only your loved ones but the fragile peace to that exists between two very different (and similar) species? Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the undisputed ruler of his ape nation. He leads with wisdom, with tact and with strength. Like all rulers, especially one with a family, he has to balance the good of his ape clan with that of the opposing forces (internal and external) around him. What you get to learn about the ape clan is that for all the primal aspects that make simians what they are, they are terrifyingly “human” in many ways. Ways that even surprised me in this movie. On one hand, you’re like “duh” to how they respond to certain situations, but you can’t help but be completely taken aback by how intelligent and ruthless they can be at the same time.
The other main part of this story centers on the human colony that resides in what’s left of San Francisco. A decade after the “Simian Flu” ravaged the worldwide human population as indicated in the post-credit scene of the prior movie, the remaining few humans are left to pick up the pieces and try to salvage what’s left of the world they once knew. Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his son and his team run violently into Caesar’s clan. In an effort to clear up a misunderstanding, Malcolm bravely tries to develop a mutual agreement with Caesar so that he and his team can restore power to what’s left of the human colony and begin to revive the once proud human race to normalcy. This causes division within Caesar’s clan and the ramifications of this movie perfectly set up what looks to be an equally spectacular third movie where all bets are off and it’ll be purely about the survival of the fittest.
While there were some great human performances by Kerri Russell (Ellie) and Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), it was the apes that really stole the show. Between the always oversized fatherly motions of Maurice the orangutan, the gnarly and vicious Koba and a surprisingly adept performance by Blue Eyes (Caesar’s eldest son), it was the ape’s performances that really took this movie to the next level.
At the end, there was a truly foreshadowing scene that articulated the twilight of man and the dawn of the apes. It was so subtly done that I don’t even think most people even noticed it. That’s how well that scene was placed, the greatness of the writing and direction of this film. As much as I enjoyed Godzilla and even Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is by far my favorite film this year.
If the Academy Awards has any credibility (which they don’t, to me), they will nominate Andy Serkis (Caesar) for Best Actor and Toby Kebbell (Koba) for Best Supporting Actor along with a slew of special effects/writing/best picture/costume nominations. It will be the only time in 10 years that I will watch the awards shows.
This movie was worth EVERY HAIRY second.