Dawn takes place 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and essentially the world has started to destroy itself because of the outbreak of simian flu. Humans are dying off en masse and only the apes are surviving. It's gotten to the point where most major cities are overrun by nature, allowing the apes to become more dominant over the planet. Caesar is now the leader of a hyper advanced faction of apes that are now discovering how to speak English, and are living their lives in relative peace and far away from humans. When a faction of humans arrive at their village to convince them to use a nearby dam for electricity, a war soon begins that will threaten not only humanity, but possibly the apes' society as well.
Dawn is a movie that is damned proud of its special effects. Instead of having huge explosions and giant action set pieces, all of the budget is used for giving each of the apes fluid motions and great textures. Ever ape in the movie is shown through CGI, but they're integrated so well that it's hard to even tell that they're fake. If Pacific Rim was the best example of CGI done right last year, then Dawn is this year's golden child, showing special effects that one would only dream of five years ago. It's amazing to watch, especially in IMAX.
|Now that's a powerful screenshot|
Why is that you may ask? Well it's because Dawn is a prequel, but not just a prequel, a sequel to a prequel to Planet of the Apes. While this may seem like a tangent, I'm not really a fan of prequels because of how limiting they can be. When doing a prequel, it's always tricky to find the right balance of adding new material, but not stretching the new material out unnecessarily. It's a bit difficult to explain, so let me give you an example. In Star Wars, The Phantom Menace was a prequel that gave more history behind Anakin and Obi-Wan, and fundamentally that's all you needed. All it needed to do was expand a few character's backstories and provide enough hints at events to come, like Palpatine being elected as the Supreme Chancellor. Say what you will about everything else in the prequel trilogy (Oh God you can say a lot about the prequel trilogy), but in theory, the point of it was to expand the backstories of a few characters and show what led to the events of the first movie. That's what a prequel should do. It should establish the building blocks of the series in small enough doses to satisfy our curiosity, but not overstaying its welcome and drag out the plot with irrelevant tangents. I fear that Dawn has fallen into the same pitfalls as the Star Wars prequels, though the Planet of the Apes prequels are infinitely better than all of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars.
Some people may disagree with me on that, but that's understandable. After all, Dawn was still a great movie and it shouldn't matter if the plot barely advanced at all as long as we got some great scenes and character moments. Let me ask you this though. What was gained from this movie that helped to bridge the gap between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the original Planet of the Apes? What did this movie accomplish to expand the mythos of the series? You can essentially throw out all of the human characters, since we know that they'll all die before the beginning of the original movie, and the major events shown in the movie like the Siege of Los Angeles are very minor cliffnotes in the franchise as a whole. Bottom line, this movie doesn't accomplish anything besides expanding upon the original Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
|These humans are so screwed|
Getting back on track now, Rise was a perfect movie to serve as a prequel to Planet of the Apes. It showed how the apes gained intelligence and how humanity was slowly going to fall. It showed the apes beginning their crawl towards the top of the food chain, and that's all that was needed. We don't need to see every little detail about how the apes got to the top of the food chain because we already know what happens when we get there and we want to see that. We want to see Ape City and monkeys becoming super technological scientists and humans being reduced to stupid creatures with no intelligence or powers to speak. I want to see that, not the apes in villages putzing around.
Again, the be fair, the movie is great in all regards. The one action scene in the movie is intense and heart pounding, all of the characters has a lot of emotion and power behind their actions, and this will probably be the only time that people can feel sad for a monkey one second and outright terrified by them the next. Seriously, these monkeys do some horrendous and unspeakable actions in the two hour run time, though most of it is through Caesar's right hand ape Koba, who is a terrifying and hate fueled monster that will stop at nothing to kill all of the humans and rule the apes with an iron fist. He's scary.
I just want this to be made clear; even though I feel that Dawn is a movie that doesn't need to exist, I'm glad it does. It's a great blockbuster that has just enough heart and intelligence to it that it can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone. It has action, it has hope, it has despair, it has comedy, it has tragedy, it has everything that a good movie should have, mostly because it is a good movie. My only concern with the movie is that nothing I'm watching matters in the grand scheme of things. The events between Rise and Planet of the Apes is over 1000 years, so nothing that I'm seeing is relevant in the end. Caesar will eventually die, Cornelius will rule the apes, and shit will go down when Charlton Heston pimps onto the planet. It's all going to happen, so I feel disconnected with what I'm seeing.
|I want a poster of this. NOW.|
Besides, we all know dogs will take over the world anyway.