I became a fan of the Planet of the Apes films first when I saw the first two films in the original cycle on television. I’m a child of the 70’s and was able to see the last three films in that cycle during that time period on the big screen. Later down the line I read the original novel by Pierre Boulle (aka Monkey Planet or the French title, La Planète des singes). The thing that I noticed from this reading was that the first, third, and fourth films in the original Apes cycle came directly from that novel.
Being the Apes nerd that I became while watching those films back in my youth, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about them respecting the source material. Tim Burton’s film had a screenwriter that had not only no respect for the material, he had contempt for the subject matter. So when they decided to do another one with Rise of the Planet of the Apes I was very apprehensive to say the least. I didn’t even bother to go see that film at a theater. When I eventually saw it on DVD I was pleasantly surprised, in fact I loved it. That film was clearly a remake of the second to the last film in original cycle, Conquest for the Planet of the Apes. The new film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, continues with the remake trend with this being a remake of Battle for the Planet of the Apes. But, even though Rise is based on Conquest and that film was taken, in part, from the original novel, Rise has nothing to do with that source material. And, neither does this new film. But, these films has so much respect for the subject matter, it isn’t a problem for me. These films seem to be getting it right.
In this film the virus that was introduced in the previous film has wiped out most of the human population. The apes have built a small but well-functioning prehistoric style community in the forest near San Francisco. Meanwhile, a group of surviving humans still occupy some of San Francisco. They have a need for electricity so a small group of humans venture into the forest to get to the nearby dam to see if they could start it back up again. Two Apes bump into one of the humans; a meeting that leaves one of the Apes shot by the startled human. This starts the theme of trust/distrust that continues throughout this film.
When the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis, the Lord of the Rings films) decides to help the humans in their goal, the beginnings of distrust with Caesar’s leadership develops in the mind of Koba (Toby Kebbell, Wrath of the Titans), the equally advanced albeit emotionally and physically scarred chimp featured from the previous film. He tries to go along with the decisions by Caesar but his hatred for the human stays just too strong. And, this is where the major conflicts that highlight the second half of this film really start off from.
Though a little over long this film is a major achievement. It has a very good storyline with complex character development that helps us understand most of the characters motivations in this film, either good or bad guys. Aside from that, the special effects are shockingly good. I kept on having to remind myself that I wasn’t watching real apes portraying these characters. I accepted the effects that much.
The final verdict is I think I like the previous film a little bit more. This may be due to some slow moments here and there in this new film making it seem a little over a long. But, this is the film to beat this summer blockbuster season.
Rating: 4.5 out of five stars