One of the many things that made Rise of the Planet of the Apes work so well is just how well crafted of an update of the original Planet of the Apes it is while still being able to seem thematically similar to that original. That’s why it ultimately seems like the latest entry in the franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is a lesser film. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is more visually stunning and its individual scenes are much better written than its predecessor. However, the film hints and ultimately goes to a much darker ending that, like its predecessor, feel thematically similar to the 1968 classic only to disregard it for a happy, audience friendly ending. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ends up being a great film that leaves a stale taste in your mouth.
Dawn picks up ten years after the Simian Flu that was hinted at in the mid-credits stinger from Rise has wiped out the vast majority of humanity. The ape community led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) lives in a utopia far away from the corruption of humanity. That is until a crew of humans trying to get a dam functioning again stumbles into their community and begins a chain of events that will put the peacemaking abilities of both communities to the test. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) directs from a script by Mark Bomback and returnees Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
This film is so close to being one of the great blockbusters of our time. For most of its runtime it is the thought provoking allegory that the original Planet of the Apes is while still finding time to include some top notch action set pieces (a long take involving a tank and another involving an escape from a heavily guarded tower are highlights). However, what made the thought provoking nature of the original so interesting was how harsh of a line it took on humanity, and for so long this film carries that (that humanity’s nature is to corrupt absolutely). There is a moment near the end of the film that shows just how true this is, and it has massive ramifications for all of the still surviving characters in the film. Unfortunately, the film only minutes later acts like that this event never happened and we end up with a visual moment of heroism for Caesar when it should be anything but.
All of that being said this is just one mistake in a film filled with great moments. Whether it is the already noted action scenes, a script that makes sure every single character has reasons that are easy to identify with for their actions or fantastic performances from Andy Serkis (who still mind-bogglingly doesn’t have an Oscar of some sort) and Toby Kebbell (playing one of the best villains in recent memory as Koba), there is a lot to like in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.