Few films, in recent memory, have genuinely wowed me at every turn, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that one exception. I’ll admit that, going into the film, I hadn’t set my hopes too high. The marketing for the film hadn’t overwhelmed me like most summer blockbusters do, which I instantly translated to mean that the studio had little faith in the film’s success. Did this mean that I wouldn’t like it?
I want to start off by giving a serious round of applause to Peter Jackson‘s co-founded Weta Digital, the company in charge of the CGI for the film. Too often, I’m entirely dissatisfied with films, like Apes, that rely heavily on special effects for a large majority of the film, mostly because they just don’t come across as realistic. This was not the case for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The apes themselves were just as realistic as the humans with whom they were interacting. Despite the actions of the apes being captured by actors in motion-capture suits, the sense of realism that was captured was incredibly profound.
A large chunk of the film focuses on the apes and their qualms with the humans – primarily for the way they’d been treated in the past. Watching the apes interact with each other, like Caesar, the leader of the apes, interacted with his son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), was like watching a human father/son moment unfold before my eyes. Caesar is wise and a true leader, and his son is young and naïve and only looking to be the hero he feels he should be. Throughout the film, we experience normal, everyday emotions with Caesar and his family of four, which includes Blue Eyes, his wife, and his new baby son.
If an actor can truly capture, with their eyes, the emotion of a scene, then they get instant praise from me, because it is not an easy thing to convey to an audience. The fact that the looks in the eyes of the apes – the characters who many wanted to be the villains of the films – had me reaching for something to wipe my own eyes with, only solidified my theory that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has some of the best CGI we’ve seen this year – perhaps in many years.
Keri Russell‘s performance as Ellie, a mother who lost her daughter to the ALZ-13 virus, was subtly outstanding. While many of the human cast members had very little chance to shine, Russell managed to do so in a way that allowed you to not only connect with her character, but with the apes, through which her character was empathically connected to from the beginning, if only because of her understated compassion, despite everything that had been taken from her.
Other accolades go out to Andy Serkis, Karin Konoval, and the rest of the ape cast. Serkis and Konoval portrayed Caesar and Maurice, respectively. Together, and separately, the entire ape cast was able to portray realistic chimps with a twist, without over dramatizing them at every turn. I would imagine that it takes a lot of skill to play a character who will, in no way, look like you, all while fitted into a special suit with wires, a helmet, and little white dots stuck to your skin.
Perhaps the most moving part of the film was the relationship that was ultimately established between Caesar and Malcolm (Jason Clarke), both of whom unconsciously renewed the other’s faith in a different species. Caesar was able to understand humans again since he first evolved into the ape he was at present, while Malcolm was able to understand, perhaps as the ambassador for the human race, the desire that the apes had for peace and longevity, just like the humans.
Overall, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was able to pleasantly surprise me at every turn while being visually stunning and delivering dramatic, yet thoughtful performances from its cast – human and ape alike.
Official “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Theatrical Trailer:
What did you think of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”?
Featured image: Twentieth Century Fox