Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie poster
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie poster

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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One of the best movies of the summer is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, an ambitious and surprisingly patient action-drama that, despite being a sequel to a reboot, feels fresh and original.

Set several years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the world has descended into chaos and most humans have been wiped from the face of the planet. But when a pocket of bipeds encounter the ape community that, under Caesar’s leadership, has flourished to the north of San Francisco, tensions build and eventually explode.

Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes succeeds on many fronts:

  1. Its themes of trust, loyalty and miscommunication. At its heart, the movie is about two groups of animals that, despite both just wanting to survive, go to war because they each fear what is different.
  2. Its premise. It’s easy to throw together a post-apocalyptic thriller, but few movies in recent memory feel so grounded and natural as the setting established by the filmmakers.
  3. The action and visual effects. Like with Rise, the visual effects are impressive and believable; the apes, so pivotal to the movie, look, feel and act real. While there isn’t a ton of action, the movie features a few impressive sequences of action and/or suspense.
  4. The boldness to focus on the apes. Most filmmakers and studios (looking at you, Michael Bay, and your Transformers) would take a concept like this and make it all about the humans; instead, Reeves and crew spend much of the movie with the apes, often relying on sign language and subtitles for dialogue. It’s a bold move, and one that helps develop the title characters (I am, however, not one of those critics advocating for Oscar recognition for Andy Serkis).

The movie isn’t without a few faults. Keri Russell is largely wasted in a minor supporting role, and a decision by the lead human (Jason Clarke) toward the end of the film doesn’t make much sense. There are a few other minor issues, but all of them inconsequential.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic movie and one that is more deserving of the praise it has received.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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