If you’ve considered seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, please don’t be like my judgmental friends who wouldn’t even consider seeing it because it has “monkeys” in it. Seriously, this is an awesome movie that’s part of a respectable reboot, with a hell of a franchise behind it. Judging it before you see it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, which infers that yes, I do think you should see this movie.
First off, it smashed the critics reviews and box office and Rotten Tomato-meter. For a movie with virtually no big stars coming out in the middle of the summer (though I’ll admit that July was definitely the weakest month so far), and which is based so much on successful execution of CG animation, it’s done remarkably well. The characters—apes (NOT MONKEYS) and humans alike—are engaging, well played, and the story is truly gripping.
Never mind the fact Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was helmed by Matt Reeves, who doesn’t have a ton of previous votes on his filmography to give us confidence in his work, and Michael Seresin, whose most notable cinematography work was the polarizing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Together they find some magic, and Andy Serkis brings his best yet again to make Caesar as human and compelling as anyone not wearing a CG suit.
In particular, this movie really pushes on the idea that war is not something innate to humans, but which is in some ways unique to humans. The scenes where the apes come marching to war are purposefully iconic—if you squinted, you might not be able to distinguish the fact that these aren’t humans fighting humans. If you allow that to sink in, the idea that intelligence and knowledge somehow come hand in hand with a need to create organized attacks on other species, it’s kind of scary that there are any other predators still alive on our planet now, and easy to imagine than any other species who gained such knowledge might do us great harm in return. I can’t exactly articulate how important this point is to me, but I know it still disturbs me, and for that reason alone it’s worth taking the time to watch this movie and let it sink in.
I’d really recommend this movie as yet another example of how the Summer of 2014 has been less comic book fodder, more surprise hit that we thought might bomb. I saw it in 3D, which was well worth the money as well, and you don’t often hear me saying that.
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