365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I'm not the hugest fan of reboots. I often think, "Why?" or "What's the point?" or, "Can Hollywood really not come up with an original idea?". However, at the same time, I'm a big fan of origin stories. Usually if the first movie in a franchise is really, really good, I'll keep watching the sequels until they just start to stink. Once you lose me though, you lose me and I'm not coming back. So each subsequent movie in a franchise doesn't necessarily need to be better than the start movie (in fact I don't expect it to be), but it still better be pretty darn good. Some of my favorite movies in the last decade include Batman Begins, Iron Man, and even The Hangover. These three movies illustrate my point perfectly. The Dark Knight, unquestionably, and The Dark Knight Rises, probably, were both better than Batman Begins. In the Iron Man franchise, Iron Man was definitely the best, Iron Man 2 very good, but not great, and Iron Man 3 still decent. With The Hangover, the first one was brilliant, The Hangover 2 one had me asking "Why are they doing this again?", and the third one was so terrible that I will not pay another dollar if these franchise continues and has made me much less interested in ever watching the original one again. I have not seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies from the 1960's and I'm not sure I ever well. The luck kind of cheesy. With that said, the premise of the movie itself is kind of cheesy. I did see the the Mark Wahlberg 2001 Planet of the Apes and, despite some initial reservations, enjoyed it. This movie will likely be the forgotten one of any the Apes movies since it's a standalone and not part of a franchise. The 2011 James Franco led Rise of the Planet of the Apes I thought was a very, very good movie. At the time, I didn't know it would be a franchise. That was foolish thinking though. Grossing $175 million in the United States alone all but assured the series would continue. But I personally could care less about how much a movie makes. It was a good enough movie to make me excited to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and all of the great reviews for it seemed to warrant my hype.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place some ten years after the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The ALZ-113 virus has spread across the globe and wiped out most of the population. Those who have not died off have become immune to the virus. However, no problems have risen. The humans are devoid of an effective power supply. The Muir Woods has a dam in it that the humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke - The Great Gatsby, Lawless) and Ellie (Keri Russell - Waitress, television's The Americans) believe can provide a limited amount of power back to their small community in San Francisco. The Muir Woods, however, is home to a gigantic group of Apes who are extremely distrusting of any and all humans. The apes are led by Caesar (Andy Serkis -  Rise of the Planet of the Apes, King Kong), the, now adult, star of the first film. While Casear's advisers, namely his lieutenant  Koba (Toby Kebbell - The Counselor, The Conspirator) believe that all humans want to do is hunt them down and ruin their way of life, the leader isn't quite so certain. More importantly, Casear is aware that the humans are still a threat and knows he needs to do whatever possible to protect the other apes. The Apes have evolved since the last movie. In addition to being able to communicate with one another perfectly, they are also able to speak. Thus they are able to hold conversations with the humans in which both parties know exactly what the other's intentions are. Caesar, unlike many of the other apes, also has memories of humans that are not completely negative. Yet he knows that they are dangerous. In the ten years between films, it's implied that there were some early exchanges between the humans and the apes, believing that the apes needed to be extinguished in order to eliminate the threat of the the spreading virus.  We can also assume that the apes have been relatively alone for the last few years. So when Malcolm, Ellie,  Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee - The Road, Let Me In), Carver (Kirk Acevedo - Invincible, television's Oz), and a small party of others enter the Muir Woods, they are asked to leave and not return rather than being killed on the spot by the hundreds upon hundreds of apes in the vicinity. 

The next parts of the movie involve the various types of conflicts that arise because of the predicament. The humans are intent on getting to the dam and removing the blockage to restore power. They believe this is vital to the future of the race. The apes don't trust the humans and don't believe in the need to assist them in getting stronger. If they get stronger, the apes believe they will once again try to enter their home and eliminate them. The apes are very wary of the intentions of the humans and even more uncertain about the powerful weapons they possess. There is also conflict among the apes. For years, they have supported Caesar, but a few (like Koba) believe that his empathy towards humans inhibits him from seeing the entire picture clearly. In reality, Casear wants to prevent war. And if the humans need the dam to be fixed to continue their way of life, Caesar fears they will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this. And this could arise in war. So he decides to trust the humans, specifically Malcolm. He will allow a small group of humans into the their home provided the fact that the humans leave their weapons behind.

That is enough of the story to tell. Hopefully it gets you interested. Obviously not all is going to go as planned because this would make for an extremely dull movie. It's interesting to see it all play out by seeing who trusts who and who doesn't trust who, who has hidden agendas and who does not. The acting isn't bad, but I thought the apes did a better job than the humans. Extra props to Serkis who really brought Caesar to life and made him the most likable character in the movie. Clarke was good. He's slowly gaining bigger and better roles as his career progresses. Russell was under-utilized. An actress of her stature didn't need to play second fiddle in a movie such as this.

What I disliked most about this movie was that I saw it in 3D. At my local cinema, almost all of the showings were in 3D. I thought Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of the worst uses of 3D technology to date. There were times when I actually took off the glasses so I could better see the characters. The glasses made the screen much too dark and it made distinguishing between the different apes even more difficult than it would have already been. As of July 2014, there are still only two movies that I think absolutely 100% benefited from 3D. Those movies are Life of Pi and Gravity. Some will argue Avatar, but I didn't think Avatar was a very good movie to begin with so the 3D did nothing for me. I'm almost willing to put World War Z in the same category as Life of Pi and Gravity because that movie really did it for me. But the more I think about it, the 3D (while awesome) didn't make or break the movie like it did the previous two. Long story short...let's save the 3D for places where it really enhances the movie-going experience.

If you liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes then you will love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If you didn't like the first one, I'll say the second one is better, but it's probably not enough to recommend seeing the movie. If you didn't see the first one, you don't necessarily need to watch it before the viewing of the second one, but I would highly recommend doing so.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 8.5/10
Character Chemistry 8.5/10
Acting 8.5/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  9/10
Cinematography 7/10 (absolutely zero need for this to be a 3D movie...the movie is hindered by the 3D experience)
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 9/10
Universal Relevance 7/10 (uh...this is pretty generous)


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