Dawn of the Planet of the Apes might just be the best movie of the year (if I’m unable to see Snowpiercer…) so far. While there isn’t much to say about the movie without spoiling plot elements, the easiest way of putting it is that everything is done masterfully: the writing is solid, the directing is top notch, the story is really interesting, the characters all get serious development (you end up knowing more about certain apes than humans), and all in all it might just be the best sequel in Hollywood history.
DotPotA does everything better than its predecessor, similar to how Catching Fire improved upon The Hunger Games in every possible way. All the things you loved from the first movie are present, but expanded and where needed, improved. The one element of the first movie that was a bit lacking was its pacing, as it never really got us to care about James Franco’s character because Caesar (lead ape, if you didn’t know) was the focus from start to finish, making James Franco’s scientist bits feel too brief and shoehorned in. Here, the movie knows better than to try to get our attention with a top tier human cast, and while big stars are present, DotPotA is far more focused on Caesar so that you know exactly who the protagonist to root for really is. If only Michael Bay understood that the focus of a movie like this is supposed to be on its CGI characters, then maybe we’d get a half-decent Transformers.
The other notably commendable aspect of the film is how it managed to take a somewhat shaky foundation from the first film and turn it into a full-fledged sequel, one that not only built off of characters and relationships from the first one but even managed to end on a note where you felt satisfied with the final frames fully aware of the obvious finale-to-the-trilogy setup. Even the smallest characters from Rise of the Planet of the Apes get a meaningful reference in some form, and some of the bigger players go on to dominate most of this movie, turning apes that were just fighters in the previous film into meaningful characters with their own motives and desires.
My only minor complaint with the movie is that the soundtrack is a bit overly bombastic on the tribal tone. I understand what the composer was going for, but considering just how human-like the apes in the film are, you’d expect the soundtrack to be a bit more fitting.
Not to sound profound or deep-seated, but this movie really opens your eyes as to why we deserve what these apes have coming to us. The apes and the humans that make questionable and arguably “villainous” moves are only doing it to protect their kind, and at the end of the day there are no real antagonists, only two populations that want to live in peace and isolation. And while the humans are a bit on the more despicable and stupid side (akin to the first movie), you still can’t wrong them for wanting to reclaim the top spot on the food chain. It’s an interesting conflict, and one that was handled so deftly that I can’t help but grow more attached to the movie the more I reflect on it. What I’m trying to say is that this movie has earned your ten to fifteen dollars easily, and you’d be doing yourself a major disservice to not run out and see it as soon as possible.