Content beyond the norm!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the number one movie at the box office and may be the number film of 2014, so far. The title speaks to apes as a population, but the film is about the leader of the ape population, Caesar. Director Matt Reeves did an exceptional job of storytelling. In the time setting between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this film, the apes have developed a language, culture, education system and a fully functioning community with Caesar as their leader.
The intro to the film briefly chronicles human events since the first film. There was a virus that nearly wiped out all of humanity. They used news clips with voice over to tell the story of mass death. There was even a video clip of current President Barack Obama cut seamlessly to match the story of the Simian Flu. The events of the first film have prompted humans to blame apes for the disease.
A few survivors discover two apes, one being Caesar’s son, in the woods and one of them shoots the other ape out of fear. Nearly the entire ape community comes to their rescue. This quick exchange starts a chain of events that result in a war over survival and resources. In a way, there are no villains in this film. Gary Oldman’s character, who would have been easily been touted as the villain, was just a man trying to insure the survival of a small colony in what is left of San Francisco.
One of the apes closest to Caesar, Koba, attempted to kill Caesar because he was a “lab rat” monkey who believes humans are evil with scars as his evidence. Koba claims humans murdered Caesar with an assault rifle, thus convincing them to attack the humans. After Caesar is discovered alive be a few human survivors, they treat him for his gunshot wound and prepare for so he may regain leadership over his people. He fights Koba to the death, wins and prepares his people for the human military arrival. Koba’s death was the result of his unwillingness to evolve his feelings for humanity.
The motion capture performances in this film stole the show. The finite details in the facial expressions and subtle movements make the apes feel organic. The post-production on the apes looks seamless to live action with the lighting and texture. Reeves made a wise decision by having the film focus on the apes and not the humans. The main human characters were relatively vanilla, but this movie is about Caesar, Koba and the apes. The dynamic between them is two sides to the same coin. Caesar had been loved by humans and Koba had been tortured by them, with the conflict coming to a head at towards the end.
The movie was more rooted in the story than the action. Although, the action had psychology, which demonstrates how this film took care of the small details in storytelling.
There are some minor events that a viewer would have to suspend disbelief: how Caesar made almost to the truck after being shot and his ability to fight Koba after needing help to climb. The only other weakness is the score. It could have been stronger especially during the more suspenseful and tragic scenes.
This film is emotional, action-packed and entertaining. The important lesson to be learned is that being judgmental, ignorant and thinking in stereotypes leads to death. The already green lit sequel to this film will more than likely focus on the war. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a demonstration of great storytelling wrapped in visual effects and action-packed sequences.