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Review

Newest ‘Planet of the Apes’ merits re-watching on recent DVD release

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December 14, 2014

Humanity is near extinction, the world is returning to nature, and we (humans) are not the dominant species as we once thought, for in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a new civilization is rising, and probably the best “Planet of the Apes” film so far revolves around it.

From last we saw of him, the intelligent ape Caesar has led his new family to the Redwoods of San Francisco, and for 10 years now has lived a peaceful life with his ape brethren, even fathering a son.

Peace is disturbed though, when humans are found to be living in the far-off city, and desperation has led them to the apes. Already something to note in this film is the beautiful approach to the cinematography, which takes advantage of its excellent art design to show off how advanced the apes have become over these 10 years.

Art design aside, the main thing audiences will immediately latch on to in this film is the main ape Caesar, played by Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy).

For a long time now I have not seen a performance like Serkis’ here; he plays Caesar with such a high degree of responsibility, seeming to weigh all his options and try to make peace with the humans.

During the few times that he does speak, the whole movie audience comes to a hush to hear his clear words, punctuated still by the amazement that he can speak.

Where there is Caesar, whose struggle becomes real and sympathetic to the audience, there is his counterpart in the film; not a human but one of his own, Koba.

A chilling performance is found in this ape, who was an escapee from the previous “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” film, whose unwillingness to forgive humans for what they’ve done to him packs an almost terrifying message as his actions in the film inspire fear among his fellow apes and birth terrible decisions.

A scene later in the film marked by billowing fire and an operatic score had me experiencing genuine fear and awe.

Much of the greatness in the apes’ performances is the excellent motion capture utilized in the film.

WETA Digital was the team behind the visuals, and they bring an almost revolutionary job to the film. Some scenes made me believe that an actual ape was there on screen, conversing with humans and screaming in anger.

This is not to say the humans don’t do their part in the film. Actors Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Gary Oldman (“The Dark Knight Rises”) do their jobs well, getting across the loss felt by all of humanity in this bleak world, searching for a source of power for their dwindling lights. But this somewhat betrays the film in that the apes and their world are so fascinating that you want to see more of them than the humans.

Despite this, their presence is welcome and even admired at how they are portrayed with a good ratio of different races and genders, as the last of humanity should be portrayed, and I’m thankful for that consideration.

At the films base, that connectivity between all people of Earth is what makes the film work so well. The “Apes” films and their stories have always meant to be a reflection of humanity and how far we’ve come. Stories of the films have always found a way to show how apes and their treatment of humans reflect how we all deal with foreign forces and the unknown in our own world.

In many ways, the film’s plot shows that two worlds can be so alike, but that it’s the actions of individuals, both good and bad, that change the world and other’s ways of thinking, that have the capacity to inspire altruism and hatred in every heart.

It may seem odd that I review this film only after it is released on home media,
but for a film that touched me in a special way when I saw it last summer, I felt it was deserved.

A film like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” makes you glad that films can excite and make you think about our world to this day.

Ryan Funes is a lover of all things movie, TV, video games and stories and wants to become a television writer someday. In his spare time he enjoys hanging with friends, tapping into his imagination, and watching cartoons of all kinds.