“Ape not kill ape!”
In 2011, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which serves as a reboot/prequel to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, surprisingly became the most groundbreaking summer blockbuster with audacious script and the introduction of the first in-place performance capture as a breakthrough in visual effects. We had been introduced to Caesar (Andy Serkis)—an intelligent ape “fathered” by James Franco’s sympathetic character—that leads an ape uprising in Golden State Bridge and starts a revolution. Sadly, as we see the legion of apes rises, we also witness an end of era to human being—devastated by simian virus as seen in the credit scene.
Dawn takes place 10 years following Caesar’s uprising in Rise, in a post-apocalyptic world where most human has been devastated by virus and the survivors annihilates each other—leaving our earth a wasted place. Meanwhile, Caesar has established a new ape society deep in Muir Woods. When surviving humans, seeking for electrical sources make contact with the newly ape civilization, which has learned to communicate with human language and live like humans; a collision between these two neighboring species is inevitable.
At first, Dawn seemingly looks like an episode of Walking with Dinosaur, only with apes as the main focus. The film goes deeper in the civilization of apes as it tries to convince the audiences that they make a peaceful, innocent society; as Caesar teaches his people with jargons like “Apes do not want war,” “Apes together strong,” or “Ape not kill ape.” In the opposite side, human has become not as strong as they used to be; the viral devastation has made them vulnerable and traumatic. The only thing they count on is their humanity; meanwhile, apes also develop what might be ape’s “humanity” that separates them from human they judge as the source of destruction.
As a sequel to a prequel of a long franchise, Dawn doesn’t provide immediate connection to the original timeline—leaving another slot for sequel(s). Moreover, Dawn‘s emotionally crafted script shows no rush in catching the original timeline as it packs the film with more insight to more political and ideological conflicts that trigger the feud between human and apes. As a consequence, the story incredibly blurs the line of humanity and bestiality, confounds the beast and the “human”, and provides strong background to return to the original timeline. Therefore, the film goes very slow at the beginning but reaches the climax too early, unfortunately.
As predicted before, the special effects convincingly elevate the natural conflicts. Serkis’ experience in mo-cap and the work of WETA workshop in beautifully digitalizing the apes makes Dawn more alive as they make it the best of its kind. The in-place performance captures work so gorgeously making the nuance of Vancouver woods and the digital effects blend in so beautifully. In addition, the human characters get sufficient roles to prove their existence. While in Rise, we had James Franco, we get a family in Dawn—all beautifully depicted by each Jason Clarke, the cooperating father, with Keri Russell as his new wife and Kodi Smit-McPhee as his son. At last, Dawn provides good balance in acting and action.
The same as its predecessor, Rise, Dawn proves its function to sustain the franchise. It also proves that strong script makes good film no matter who the director is; Matt Reeves can now relax as he takes good decision in continuing the legacy left by Rupert Wyatt, who left the production. By far, Dawn along with Edge of Tomorrow might be the best summer hit this year.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Action, Sci-Fi, Drama Directed by: Matt Reeves Written by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Mark Bombark Produced by: Chernin Entertainment Starred by: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Toby Kebbell
TRIVIA: 20th Century Fox with Motherboard also prepares 3 short film serves as companion pieces to Dawn and bridges to link Rise to Dawn. Watch them below.
That one is called Quarantine, taking places a year after the spreading of simian flu.
The second film is called All Fall Down, taking places five years after the outbreak.
The third film is called Story of the Gun, taking place 10 years after the outbreak or, simply, during the event of Dawn.