Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Quick Review

It’s very good. As others have noted, it’s probably the smartest franchise film of the summer, which could be textbook damning with faint praise, but isn’t. It’s also probably more accurately titled Dawn of the Planet Where Paranoid Assholes Really Have Done Their Level Best to Ruin Everything, which means, obviously, one could easily read lots of parallels into the real world into it. It’s not exactly a cheerful film, is what I’m saying. But well-written, well-acted, well-directed. It’s worth your time.

On a technical note, there’s not a moment in the film that I spent thinking about the fact I was looking at CGI apes, which given the number of the apes on screen, and the amount of screentime the apes have, is pretty remarkable. Credit here is split equally between the screen-capped actors (Andy Serkis most notably, but also many others) and the effects folks. We’re on the other side of the Uncanny Valley of the Planet of the Apes.

(Note: I saw the film in 2D, not 3D. It works very well in 2D; I suspect the extra dimension isn’t really necessary or even desirable.)

26 thoughts on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Quick Review

  1. Can’t wait to see this, but my priority movie right now is Snowpiercer, since it’s limited release and I really want to support it. However, if this one’s smarter than Edge of Tomorrow, I am very, very excited. (Although I guess EoT is more just really, really well done, rather than focusing on commentary that parallels our world.)

    I remember being really pleasantly surprised by the first one, mostly because I didn’t think it could end remotely well when I heard they were remaking it. I only saw it in the theater because my friends swore up and down that it was great. Won’t have that problem this time.

  2. I’m thinking of totally frying my brain tomorrow by seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes *and* Edge of Tomorrow.

    Because why not.

  3. I saw it on Saturday, agreed it’s a strong movie. The only thing that tempered my enjoyment is the inevitable downfall of the prequel. I know, watching it, that peaceful co-existance between ape and human is not possible, as much as the good guys of the movie are trying to make it happen. And the apes will win the war.

    Fully agree on the quality of the CGI apes – it’s not relevant at all. And yes, I’d say that Andy Serkis should be in consideration come Oscar time (spoiler alert: he won’t be).

    Not sure I’d say how clear the anti-gun stand was. The environment was clearly one where having a gun would make sense, say if the humans had encountered a bear. Yeah, there was a guy who was an idiot with a gun, but the problem was that the guy was an idiot.

  4. We’re on the other side of the Uncanny Valley of the Planet of the Apes.

    In other words, Beyond the Uncanny Valley of the Planet of the Apes.

    Did Ebert work on that one?

  5. Most years that would be faint praise, but X-men was surprisingly good. Honestly, if the Apes don’t do a ballet to “Horse with no Name,” then the “Time in a Bottle” sequence is probably going to rule the summer for me.

  6. As someone who grew up with the original Planet of the Apes (both movies plus TV series), I’m kind of compelled to watch all of these remakes. This one was okay, but the trouble is, none of the characters except possibly Caesar stuck with me. I didn’t really develop any kind of attachment to any of them.

    Something I kept wondering about throughout the film was whether or not that whole “can’t we all live in peace” thing would be at all viable in the real world. It’s hard enough for societies to coexist in the presence of other societies of their own species. Maybe Dreyfus’s attitude was the most sane: Kill them now, or be forever at war with them. I dunno.

  7. I just saw it. It was definitely one of the best of the big budget films so far. Andy Serkis deserves at least an Oscar nomination but, he won’t get one. Almost all the actors were wonderful. I don’t have anything against Keri Russell but, the’s not the greatest actor around.

    One really great thing was that the CGI was completely unnoticeable. Which is the highest compliment I can give to CGI.

  8. Apropos of nothing, what is it with Tasmanian Tigers? First you with the quiz, and now Kadrey (actually a year ago) using it as a description for a character. And you lent your endorsement to that book. Conspiracy? Inspiration?

  9. Saw DOTPOA at one of the “midnight” showings – they must have meant East Coast time, because it was 10pm in SF – on Thursday night. In 3D. I kept thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe all of those apes are digital – it looks really solid.”

    But the 3D makes the film sort of dim, and the glasses tend to remind me that I’m seeing a film, which is almost if not quite exactly not the point. I only see films in 3D because that’s the way the local Sundance Kabuki tends to show them.

    As a resident San Franciscan it is fun to always see my hometown getting the brunt of post-apocalyptic visions. And DOTPOA managed to stay more true to actual geography than most (but I would love to know where that waterfall and dam are meant to be).

    The one thing that disappointed me: it was obviously meant to be a setup for Battle For the Planet of the Apes, or whatever they are going to call the next one. Blatant franchising.

  10. Some of us like to see characters that we’re fond of come back again and again. So, franchising is not a bad thing for everyone. Not for most people, I suspect. (Otherwise, franchises and sequels would not be so successful. )

  11. Saw this Saturday in 3D. The movie doesn’t really need the gimmick, but it’s not abused or obtrusively done either.

    The scene near the end in the wreckage had good 3D.

    Sometimes the showtime you want just costs an extra $3, that’s all.

  12. Almost all the actors were wonderful. I don’t have anything against Keri Russell but, the’s not the greatest actor around.

    Two suggestions:

    1) Watch The Americans. If I took the Emmys even remotely seriously anymore, her lack of a nomination would be annoying me mightily.

    2) How the hell could you tell — Meryl Streep could have been playing that part (I don’t even remember the character’s name) and she got so little screen time or characterization all her scenes could have been cut and I wouldn’t have noticed.

    On the whole, I agree with our host that the film was “well-written, well-acted, well-directed” but damn (and trying to be careful of spoilers) I find it rather hard to squint past a major plot point depending on an unstable and unreliable man who’d already almost gotten everyone killed more than once not being thoroughly searched and kept under close watch. (Caesar’s also remarkably stupid when the plot mechanics require him to send a paranoid ape who loathes human beings to go on a scouting expedition to the human settlement — with entirely predictable results.)

  13. There are a couple of things that’ have always troubled me about the whole “Planet of the Apes” thing is that, well- there just *aren’t* that many apes left – and in many geographical locations, none (outside of captivity – and certainly not a viable breeding population). Secondly, what’s stopping apes from talking isn’t lack of smarts (I mean, politicians can talk, and some of them are dumber than rocks) – it’s the vocal apparatus.

  14. Saw it last night in 3D, and I agree that the extra dimension didn’t add much (but then, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of 3D).

    It was a good film, but I came away wishing that they had made the humans in the story as real as they made the apes. Which is kinda sad.

  15. The original POTA series did address the ape population issue. There was a twenty year gap between the events of ESCAPE FROM POTA and those of the next film, CONQUEST OF POTA. During those two decades, a virus from space killed all the world’s dogs and cats. Humans turned to apes as a replacement for their pets. When it soon became evident how smart and trainable apes were, pets quickly became slaves.

    It’s implied in CONQUEST that this was a worldwide trend, so one can imagine apes being imported into North America and Europe and Asis from other parts of the world. There’s also a brief mention of an accelerated breeding program to produce more apes to keep up with the growing demand for slave labor.

    Now whether twenty years is enough time to significantly increase the global population of Chimps, gorillas, and orangutans may be debatable. During Cornelius’ recitation of future history in ESCAPE, he says all this took “centuries” to happen. CONQUEST collasped it all into just two decades inorder for the film to have his and Zira’s son, Ceasar, be the leader of the ape revolt.

  16. @zombiesymmetry:

    I am often reminded of this passage from The Eternal Champion:

    ‘Ah, you seem to think I hate Eldren individuals, I do not. For all I know they may be kind to
    their own children, love their wives and treat their animals well. I do not say that they are, as
    individuals, monsters. It is as a force that they must be considered-it is what they do that must be judged-it is on the threat of their own ambitions that we must base our attitude towards them.’

    ‘And how do you consider that force?’ I asked.

    ‘It is not human, therefore its interests are not human. Therefore in terms of its own self-
    interest, it needs to destroy us. In this case, because the Eldren are not human, they threaten us merely by existing. And, by the same token, we threaten them. They understand this and would wipe us out. We understand this and would wipe them out before they have the chance to destroy us. You understand?’

    Count Roldero is, of course, wrong (as Erekose starts to point out,) but the point is, the attitude prevails. :(

  17. I liked it, but I found myself wishing that it didn’t have the feel of a Michael Bay action movie shoehorned into the third quarter of the movie. It seemed that a lot of the subtlety of the first half and the final scenes was squashed under the “MUST SHOOT EVERYTHING” approach led by an ape that had been previously shown more complex than that.

    Without being overly spoilerish, I will also note that the scene with Gary Oldman and the iPad was immensely powerful. Seriously – think about what it means for society to be tech-dependent to such a degree that even memories are lost without power.

  18. Whenever I see or read about a POTA movie, I marvel at the fact that the author of the original novel (Pierre Boulle) also wrote the novel Bridge on the River Kwai.

  19. Just got back from seeing it. Overall, well done: I enjoyed it. Nothing’s perfect, but I think they’re moving well with this series.

  20. Counterpoint: DotPotA, first and foremost, commits the cardinal sin of being boring. I’m willing to put up with a lot of nonsense if a movie can keep me engaged (see: Star Trek (2009)).

    Beyond that, and aside from being a handsome production (which it certainly is), this movie has no reason to exist. It does nothing to advance the Planet of the Apes story. It barely advances it own story. Two hours later (which felt like three hours) we are narratively pretty much exactly where we began, minus a couple key characters, whose deaths are rendered meaningless by the plot or dialog or both.

    Meanwhile, there appear to be only two female primates left on the planet, one human, one ape (who wears a pretty flower headband for our convenience). Also, with just a tiny handful of exceptions, only white folks appear those only people “genetically immune” to the “simian flu”. Seriously, I think I saw maybe a dozen total black or Latino people, and no Asians that I can recall. In San Francisco.

  21. Great review. Direct, to the point, and it actually made me want to watch the film which is remarkable because I absolutely abhor the Planet of the Apes franchise.

  22. Saw it with the wife a few days ago. We both thought the apes and effects were well done. But thought the plot was somewhat predictable and also about 15-20 minutes too long.

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