Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The sequel to the reboot prequel uses the amazing motion capture technology to bring a darker backstory to the original classic. Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a society of apes that hunt and live in the redwood forests. During a hunt, a bear attacks Caesar's son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Caesar nearly dies fighting it but Koba (Toby Kebbell) saves him. When humans stumble upon the apes' home, Caesar speaks, telling them to go. He sends Koba after them to follow. The group of humans is led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) who returns to the human settlement in San Francisco to tell the leader of the human society Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) about the apes. Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shot one of the apes and fears what the apes can do. Ellie (Keri Russell) used to research the disease that wiped out most of humanity at the CDC but sees no signs of any further contagion. Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) left behind a sketch book allowing the apes to see the extent of the society. Koba, recalling the ill treatment in the labs, believes they should attack the humans but Caesar cautions against war.

Caesar leads a show of force to the gates of the human society and tells them that he does not want a war. Dreyfus is ready to go to war but Malcolm pleads with him to let him go up there and reason with Caesar. He has to take Carver along since he knows the how the power works at the dam. At the apes' fortress, Malcolm is brought to Caesar. Despite Koba's doubts, Caesar lets Malcolm show the dam to the apes. Dreyfus sends men to the armory and Koba sneaks into it though he is caught by a soldier. The men are caught off guard when Koba plays stupid. Caesar has a family to worry about as well and does not want to sacrifice apes in a needless war. He allows Malcolm and the other humans to work on the dam. The apes save the humans lives when an accident leaves some of them trapped in a tunnel but a tense altercation with a baby chimp, Blue Eyes, and Carver shows that trust is still difficult between the species.

The humans exile Carver but manage to bargain to stay because Ellie can help Caesar's wife who is sick. Koba returns to warn Caesar and is angry that Caesar is still working with the humans. Caesar beats Koba but stops himself from killing another ape. Koba returns to the armory and kills the soldiers there. The humans get the power to work, but Koba advances his path of destruction including Blue Eyes in his scheme as he shoots Caesar and blames the humans. As the human society celebrates the return of power, the apes launch an attack raiding the armory and killing or imprisoning humans. The apes overrun the society as the soldiers send out a radio signal for help. Malcolm, Ellie, and Alexander find Caesar, injured, but still alive. Koba's leadership proves especially vicious when he kills an ape who disagrees with him. 

Blue Eyes starts to see the chaos caused by Koba and does not like other apes being imprisoned. Malcolm and Ellie take Caesar back to his old home with Alexander so that the ape can recover. Blue Eyes runs into Malcolm who was searching for a way back to the human city. Malcolm brings Blue Eyes back to his father and tells him about Koba's misdeeds. Caesar reflects on his past with Will as he recovers from his injuries. After two days, Malcolm heads out finding Dreyfus holed up beneath the building where the apes have taken over ready to blow the place up. Caesar climbs to the top of the building to confront Koba. As the human soldiers continued to reach out for help by radio, Malcolm intervenes in their plan to blow up the foundation by taking their guns. Caesar and Koba fight amongst the scaffolding and cranes. Dreyfus snatches the explosive, telling Malcolm that they have contacted a military base. He blows himself up taking down the building as Malcolm jumps to safety. Koba takes advantage of the destruction to grab a gun. Caesar throws himself at Koba knocking him down so that he's hanging on a ledge. Koba tries to appeal to Caesar's kind heart but Caesar sees the destruction Koba has wrought and drops him down the building. The apes prepare for war in the final scenes as it sets up a sequel.

Boasting an impressive cast, stellar special effects, and a solid story, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great movie. Director Matt Reeves does a great job humanizing the apes and displaying spectacles of the apes swinging through trees or building. Andy Serkis once again does a masterful job with the motion capture. This movie turns up the action several notches with a drawn out battle during nearly the entire second half of the film and the major conflict between two apes. I was excited to see the ending leading to something bigger when I first saw this film in theaters and now look forward to seeing the conclusion of this amazing trilogy.

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