Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a perfect movie in tone and spirit.

Whether it ends up being the best this summer depends on James Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy. Even so, these are entirely two different movies. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a much more realistic, grounded depiction of a rather unrealistic, ridiculous premise. While I hoped for a James Franco cameo, it’s probably better that his appearance is relegated to that of a picture and short video snippet.

If you’re waiting to watch this movie, stop and go directly to the theater.

It’s truly amazing how far our technology has come. Interestingly enough, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a story with humans on the cusp of extinction because the simian flu (a man-made disease released 10 years prior) has wiped out nearly everyone else, and the remaining survivors are attempting to reconnect to technology in order to rebuild civilization. The only thing standing in their way is an army of genetically enhanced apes who don’t have any reason to be particularly nice to humans based on their experiences.


Our computer-generated apes look fantastic and frighteningly real. But the true credit goes to Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell for bringing Caesar and Koba to life. At this point, Andy Serkis should be recognized as a seriously talented actor instead of just a motion capture monkey or greedy goblin.

Although Rise of the Planet of the Apes focused primarily on James Franco and his relationship with Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes places the attention on Caesar and the apes from the start. Like the new world they now live in, the humans are few and far between on the outskirts of the apes’ forest near San Francisco. It’s unconfirmed as to whether there even are any more humans outside this area.

Our four main featured characters are the aforementioned Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) on the ape side with Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman) on the human side. Despite the differences between the apes and humans, the dynamics between each respective leader and right-hand man/ape are rather similar. Malcolm and Caesar hope to establish a truce while Dreyfus and Koba are prepared to go to war to be the dominant species.


Gary Oldman is fucking awesome as usual. Not much is asked from him in terms of effort, but he delivers as a stern yet sympathetic character that gives impeccable, impassioned speeches like the one below.

“We’ve been through hell together! We spent four years, FOUR YEARS fighting that virus, and then another four fighting each other! It was chaos!… But you all know what we’re up against! And I want you to know, it’s not just about power! It’s about giving us the hope to rebuild, to reclaim the world we lost!” — Dreyfus

I don’t know if Jason Clarke is necessarily a good actor, but his performance in this movie is rock solid. For the most part, Jason Clarke has been a bona fide “that guy” for the last 10 years in the sense that you’ve seen him before but probably don’t know his name. However, his movie career has definitely started to pick up steam during the last few years—most notably with a prime role in Zero Dark Thirty.

Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast isn’t noteworthy. Keri Russell doesn’t do much besides standing there and looking sad. I don’t even remember her name or that of the kid (Malcolm’s son). But I was thrilled to see character actor Kirk Acevedo (Miguel Alvarez for HBO’s Oz) playing the role of trigger-happy Carver. Acevedo has been doing the rounds on television, but I’ve always enjoyed his acting. Hopefully this surprisingly pivotal role is parlayed into more movies in the near future.

Remember that kid I mentioned above? Some may recognize him as Owen from Let Me In, but he’s also Boy from The Road. For me, Kodi Smit-McPhee will resonate and rattle around in my brain for being the common link between two miserable movie-going experiences. I loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Everyone should watch this movie…except the jackass drunken teenagers that were sitting behind us.

I don’t know what would possess someone to talk in a theater during the movie. It is not your fucking living room. The worst experience I can recall was also due to a gaggle of stupid kids when trying to watch The Road. I must not be meant to watch any Kodi Smit-McPhee movie around other people.

Fortunately, there was nothing that could spoil Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This movie is an unstoppable force. A lot of parallels can be found between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Lion King—with more mature tones in the former though the latter is more likely to induce tears.


A major feat for an epic summer blockbuster is the ability to make the audience emotionally invested. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters and I actually cared when those events unfolded. This is an example of everything that can good about summer movies. And the execution is perfect. As a result, the bar has been raised to expect a flawless film for the third leg of this trilogy.

Anything less would be uncivilized. Like those damn, dirty apes.


5 out of 5 stars


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