Planet of the Apes is one of the most beloved and original franchises out there and in the world or remakes and reboots is one that has suffered through it yet somehow found its way out of the chaos and back into greatness. When Rise of the Planet of the Apes debuted in 2011 it took fans by surprise as it managed to not only deliver a great film but respected the source material. Of course fans wanted more and now they are getting it with the latest entry into the new series Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but can it live up to the previous entry and still respect the others or will this begin the fall of the cherished franchise?
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes follows a growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar who is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species. This is one of those sequels that has got a lot to live up to and not only lives up to them surpasses it in almost every way. Where the last film had the slow build to allow the evolution of the apes unfold, this one jumps right into the new world and from the first frame feels like a Planet of the Apes movie. We are not just given more fighting, but instead allowed to step into the world of the apes and see their lives and how they have survived. The filmmakers were smart to not try and force more human interaction as the lead, but instead let the apes world fully unfold before we ever see a human face. Once they are there, the apes are still kept at the forefront keeping it all the more interesting. Surprisingly the story borrows from both of the weaker films in the franchise, Conquest and Battle of the Planet of the Apes, but in a much more effective way.
The cast bring their A-game with the always awesome Andy Serkis once again bringing the pain and emotion to Ceaser’s eyes that help the character be more than just and ape. Alongside him is Toby Kebbell as Koba, another ape with his own agenda and anger towards the humans. Kebbell brings just as much of the emotion and personality of the character while bringing more rage needed to make this character work on every level. The rest of the cast all do a great job with their characters including Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kirk Acevedo, but let’s be honest this film isn’t about them, it is about the apes and there are plenty of them. This is one of the most stunningly visual films in sometime from both the apes themselves, but also the surroundings chosen to depict both sides. Some have stated that the more realistic approach to the apes makes it creepier and they are right, which is what makes this work so much better. It reminds you that something that exists in our world has evolved to a point of threatening our existence and makes it feel more real. The CGI for them is excellent, but it’s the performers capturing the mannerisms of the apes that bring it full circle and bring it all to life.
While this film is filled with a great emotionally charged story, have no fear there is plenty of action that is a spectacle all its own. Seeing the apes fully armed on horseback wreaking havoc harkens back to the original film, but with way more of a chaotic delivery. In addition there is a great sequence between apes solving their own issues in the finale their way that makes sure you do not forget that this is a Planet of the Apes film. While the original will forever be a classic film that is an amazing part of cinema history this film might easily be the best Planet of the Apes film ever released. Take that how you want, but it showcases all the best of what this series should be and more while always respecting those that came before it.
The ending for this film clearly sets up for more entries in the franchise and is almost identical to one of the original films it may be the one part that irritates some as it doesn’t offer that happy ending closure that some prefer. Personally, the choice to leave it where it ends lets the viewer that all the insanity and violence that has ensued is just the beginning and promises that while this might be a sequel, it is just the beginning of the Planet of the Apes.