"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" Restores Faith in Big Cinema as an Artform

I’ve had an obsession with “Planet of the Apes” since childhood. I remember one of the first novels I read in second grade was “Battle for the Planets of the Apes” by David Gerrold. I read it during Math class hidden behind my textbook. I hadn’t even seen any of the movies at that time, but was fascinated by the cover art of gorillas and chimpanzees storming forward bearing arms.

My first exposure to the “Planet of the Apes” onscreen was the ill-fated 1974 television series. My parents would let me stay up every night during the Summer for “Planet of the Apes Week.” Two episodes of the series were edited together to make one movie. I loved those and still do to this day. I bought the box set of the show the day it came out in stores.

I was a nerd way before it was cool to be one. I remember writing my own “Planet of the Apes” stories and acting them out. Fast-forward thirty-two years and I’m still the same nerd that loves gun-toting monkeys (don’t tell General Ursus I called him that), but now it’s something to shout on high about at San Diego Comic-Con with half a million other geeks in attendance.  

There’s been a lot of reviews of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” already published. It’s been certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes and critics have exclaimed things like “Better than the first” and “The only bad thing about the movie is it ends.” Are these statements true or just the mad rantings of an uber-fan suffering hype-fever as they leave the theater? I can tell you it’s all true.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is one of those rare films that bests its predecessor. Director Matt Reeves takes Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver's script and brings it to vivid life onscreen. I don’t say this lightly, but it will be crowned an epic in the future volumes on cinema history.

The world of CGI truly has taken a step forward with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” I can’t believe that a CGI ape can show so much emotion. It’s quite possible the apes were better actors than the humans in the film. How can “The Hobbit” movies look so bad when this movie looks so good?  WETA handled the CGI work for both of them! It’s a question I’ll ponder for one second and no more. I simply don’t have time to waste dwelling on such forgettable tripe.

Actors I simply must mention in this review include Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis. Oldman does a stellar job in a role that anyone else would’ve turned into a soulless bad guy. He makes you feel sorry for the character through his emotionally-charged and convincing performance.

Serkis should win an Oscar for best performance for his portrayal of Caesar. I don’t care if his real face is seen onscreen. The emotions seen in the expressions of that CGI ape are all Serkis’s doing and he deserves props for it.

I can only imagine what original franchise Producer Arthur P. Jacobs and creator Pierre Boulle would think if they saw “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Boulle would no doubt be in shock at how impactful his little book has been on both pop culture and the evolution of filmmaking. He considered it “one of his lesser works” when he wrote it in 1963. Jacobs would’ve broken down in tears to see something he fought so strongly to get made be brought to life in such a realistic form.

Original “Battle of the Planet of the Apes” Director J. Lee Thompson would exclaim that he finally got to see his true vision of that movie reflected onscreen. It’s no secret he was very limited to what he could do by the budget of the final sequel to the original series of films. He had to film much of the battle close-up to make it look like there were more apes and men fighting than there were. That problem has been solved in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” takes what “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” accomplished and ups the emotion, tension, and action, much like “The Empire Strikes Back” did for “Star Wars.” I know you’ve heard that comparison before, but it’s really the only way to describe what it brings to the table. It’s a perfect example of a movie you don’t want to end when the credits start rolling. You want to see more… and you don’t want to have to wait three years to do it!