A sequel to a prequel — 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is exactly what’s expected of it. While the CGI apes may look better than they did three years ago, the story is still a bunch of cliches surrounding undeveloped characters, both human and ape. Setting in motion what Charlton Heston will one day encounter, it’s obviously trying to touch upon the realities of human nature, which is reflected in the evolving apes. Many may enjoy it’s numerous breathtaking action scenes, but much of its story leaves a lot to be desired.
Taking place over a decade from the previous film, the human race has fallen to a deadly disease and Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads the growing community of intelligent apes. Only, they soon discover that some humans have survived after crossing paths with Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his family — second wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) — along with the rest of his group. They’ve entered the forests of Marin from a survivor camp in San Francisco, which Malcolm began with Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), in order to get power from a dam.
As expected, the humans and apes don’t play nice. While Caesar remains skeptical, he also understands that humans do have the capacity for generosity, due to his experiences in the previous film. Others, mainly his second-in-command Koba (Tony Kebbell), can only recall the cruelties of humanity and have no trust. What the film essentially tells is of the war between the dwindling humans and the rising apes. But, what it really wants to tell is some morality tale about race, the nature of communities, and some notion of group thought. The humans are immediately frightened by horse riding, and somewhat talking, apes, while the apes are completely mistrusting of humans, who long ago seemed to only keep them in cages for amusement and experiments. What it wants to say is that good and bad exist in everyone, and no community has only one.
Honestly, it’s a pretty unoriginal and boring subject: not all humans are bad and not all apes are good. It would help if the journey to get to this realization was somewhat interesting, but it’s completely predictable. There isn’t one moment of true surprise, as every underwritten character acts exactly as the audience will expect. Caesar may have some backstory thanks to the previous film, but the rest of the cast are completely cardboard. Koba only exists as a foil for Caesar, his complete opposite, while Malcolm and his family seem to only exist to prove that humanity isn’t all evil.
There are fleeting moments of intelligence, and director Matt Reeves is able to adeptly stage intense action scenes. But what happened to action films whose destruction was in conjunction with a compelling story and interesting characters? Instead, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seems like another in a very long line of studio films made only as an excuse to show how difficult it was to make and how great its special effects are. That’s all well and fine, but it doesn’t count for anything if time isn’t spent crafting a worthwhile script. Unfortunately, it seems that an engaging script was the least of the worries for all involved in this bloated borefest.
Rating: 2 out of 5