It's always a sort of bittersweet moment when I cross one of my "Most Anticipated Movies" off the list. On the one hand, I am seeing a movie that I have been eagerly anticipating. On the other hand, there is one less thing to look forward to this year. Already, I am looking toward next year, and scoping out what movies I most want to see (I'll give you a hint, two of them are Marvel Studios films...). As of right now, I have seen 9 out of my 11, and so far, I think it has been a pretty fun year. Granted, some of the movies may not be great, but on the most part, they were fun. However, it's time to get this particularly monkey off my back, and dive into the review.
We all have hopefully forgotten Tim Burton's abortion of a reboot from several years back. A movie so bad, that when it was rebooted again, the re-reboot decided to call itself Rise of the Planet of the Apes... It was so awful, they had to actually add a bunch of words to distance itself. Granted, if they had called "Rise" nothing more than "Planet of the Apes" it would have been a huge misnomer, and would have done a huge disservice to that particular movie. It was indeed the rise of the planet of the apes, and in movie terms, it took 10 years for us to reach the Dawn.
Dawn begins, with a simple series of news blurbs, telling of the fall of humanity, due to a new disease called "Simian Flu". This is important, because it sets up one of the central animosities in the film. After the title, we are greeted with a nice introduction to the world of the Apes. This is important, because it serves to mark one of the key characters, so you can pick him out later through the film, as well as setting up another one of the central animosities of the film.
The film essentially tells two stories, that intersect and interweave over and over, forming a narrative tapestry, that holds together really well, and forms a great overall experience. This film builds well on the foundation of the previous film, without having to constantly revisit it. In this way, it stands on its own, while also being part of a greater whole.
The first story, is also the central story. The story of the Apes, led by Caesar and hid right hand chimp Koba. Both characters are former research apes of some variety. Whereas Caesar was fortunate enough to have found a friendly human, Koba knew nothing but hatred, and pain at the hands of his human captors. This leads to the two friends being at odds in there beliefs about humans. While Caesar can see the good, Koba can not seem to see anything but the evil. You can see where this inevitably will lead.
Meanwhile the humans are primarily represented by Malcolm, and Commissioner Gordon. While Malcolm can see the potential good in the apes, Commissioner Gordon only sees the bad, so in an effort to stop the ape menace, Commissioner Gordon sends all the cops in San Francisco down into the sewers....Wait, no... that was a different movie.
Either way, the parallels between the two groups is what leads to the conflict, and in a way, says a lot about humanity in the process. Honestly, if you'll permit me to analyze the film a little here, I see this film to very much be a film about racism. The movie splits up the races between humans and apes, rather than Caucasians, Mexicans, Blacks, etc...It highlights how we are all, at our core the same, but we often are blind to that, because all we can see is the differences. We all desire the comforts of family, and a home. We seek to survive, and in the film, that is what the two groups both are trying to do. This is at the base, a movie about how if we could see past our differences and work together, we could accomplish so much more.
Then again, I might be seeing messages where there are no messages.
The movie, is beautiful. Well shot, and kept me entertained from beginning to end. The Apes at times have a sort of unreality to them, but all in all everything has that sense of veracity that makes a good science fiction movie into a great science fiction movie.
If I were to level one complaint at the movie, it would be the large number of subtitles used. This is only a complaint, because it can detract from the beauty of the film itself. I am forced to leave the film to read what is being said, and in doing so, I am briefly returned to reality. All in all, it makes sense within the framework of the story, but it can be off-putting especially for those that do not read particularly fast.
RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the first film, this film should be right up your alley. It is a fun summer film, that also manages to be smart. If you are illiterate or a slow reader, you may wish to avoid this.
IS IT THEATER WORTHY?: This was a great movie in the theaters. It had the right mix of action, and drama, to make the big screen experience all the better. A definite must watch, if you are looking for a summer flick with a little bit of power behind it.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This movie, while still managing to offer up a couple of good explosions, doesn't suffer from the Bay-hem that seems to be characteristic of some summer films. This is a film that doesn't treat the audience as if they need something shiny dangled in their faces every second to keep them in their seats. And with the amount of reading involved, this is most definitely a movie that has faith that the audience is at least marginally intelligent!
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10