Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
July 11, 2014 12:59 PM - Subscribe

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.
posted by mathowie (22 comments total)
Saw this last night at a late premiere screening, and I still don't quite know what to think about it. It was interesting in that it shows a post-apocalyptic San Francisco and quickly gets the viewer to side with the apes for having a robust thoughtful culture. The evil humans show up, a few bad apples ruin the bunch, and war between apes and human happens. The few good apples among humans find the few good apes and there are adventures. In the end, everything feels like a teaser for a sequel, shutting the story down right when it was getting interesting (I didn't see the last film so had no idea this was just another in a continuing sequel, I assumed they were always rebooting things).

The apes are insanely lifelike to the point where I don't know if it was all computer graphics or incredible makeup or a mixture of both. The second half of the film is a bit of a bummer with a lot of humans and apes dying horrible deaths and those looked CG but still felt bad.

It was an interesting world they setup for the story, and I would have loved to see more things happen aside from the apes vs. human battles, it feels like a shame they couldn't explore the story more before going down the predictable war scene battle storyline.
posted by mathowie at 1:09 PM on July 11, 2014

Creative, promising first half. Banal, boring second half. Alas.
posted by bru at 3:40 PM on July 11, 2014

I sorta got to go with the Onion on this.
posted by pjern at 7:12 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think the best way to watch these movies is after a recent rewatch of the 1968 original. It provides the shocking twist to the whole storyline--this happened on Earth! (Forget all the other pre-Rise Apes movies. We don't need them.) After re-living the shock of discovering that Earth becomes an Ape dominated society with primitive, mute humans, watch Rise and Dawn as documentaries that chronicle humanity's inevitable downfall and doom. The added poignancy makes them a lot more worthwhile. After all, we know where this is going--there aren't going to be huge surprises. At some point we get to Charlton Heston in a cage. The prequels are about the missed opportunities to avoid that fate, leading inexorably to our doom.

I kind of loved it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:11 AM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Saw it tonight, and count me in as loving it. I didn't think it was boring at all -- especially given, yes, there was all the predictability you would expect for something that is both a sequel and a prequel to both a classic and a rebooted series.
posted by freejinn at 10:41 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the end, everything feels like a teaser for a sequel,

Ha, that was exactly my complaint about the first one!

We saw it last night and really enjoyed it. (Well, we didn't enjoy the asshole right next to me who texted through the entire movie, but that's another story) I liked the fact that it wasn't simply Yelling Gary Oldman Declares War on Uniformly Peaceful Apes (as I had assumed the second Gary Oldman showed up on screen), but that the conflict within the human society was mirrored in the conflict within the ape society, and therefore the war comes out of failings on both sides.

As others have mentioned, though, I also would have liked to have seen more within the respective societies, too, particularly the relationship between Caesar and Koba, given how extremely different their pre-ape society lives were. Caesar gained his consciousness within a world of love, security, and opportunity where he was nurtured; Koba gained his in a world of fear, pain, and scarcity where he was tortured. So Koba's distrust and anger are introduced (and acknowledged) as reasonable and sympathetic. But it also suggests that there would have been a kind of divide between Caesar and Koba that would have always existed, despite their friendship. So I would have liked to have seen their conflict presented more as a disintegration of a friendship (which would have pained both of them), rather than just Koba suddently breaking bad (sorry) and turning into the Monstrous Animal-Villain that Yelling Gary Oldman Yellingly Predicted.

It also would be awesome, Hollywood, if you could remember that females of both species can do things other than dispense hugs and support for the males of their species.

Visually, it was absolutely stunning -- not just the apes (which are astonishing), but also the backgrounds. Those shots of the ape village, with the firelight flickering in the rain and the geometry of those beautiful spiral staircases up to the treetops, were especially breathtaking.

So yeah, even with some of its shortcomings, I'm in the "loved it" camp.
posted by scody at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

a kind of savage kitsch...like something created by Quentin Tarantino for Discovery Channel

Wait, Koba was bonobo? I thought those were supposed to be the "make love not war" chimpanzees?
posted by freejinn at 1:48 PM on July 13, 2014

The weird thing about this movie (I predict, as I've yet to see it) and the one before it (and I loved the first one to bits, really a great film) is that I stopped feeling bad for the apes getting hurt/killed as soon as they became intelligent. As soon as they became, essentially, human.

But Jackson's King Kong? I was inconsolable when Kong was hurt and when he died.

I find that interesting. I wonder if there's a term for it. Reverse-anthropocentrism? Nonthropocentrism?
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:01 PM on July 13, 2014

Ok, that New Yorker review is pretty spot on. Rise was definitely a better directed film than Dawn is. I think Wyatt (director of Rise)) had far more respect for the subject matter. In fact I even recall finding an anthology of ape tales at the library with an introduction by Wyatt; it was clear in his introduction that he had spent a lot of time thinking and reading about primates and our cultural relationships to them.

Dawn has some pretty great moments, and the score (by Michael Giacchino of Lost/Incredibles fame) is really, really good. Very reminiscent of the 1968 Jerry Goldsmith score, possibly my favorite aspect of the film.

I felt like the film badly wanted to be the kind of Morality Play that seems to be expected of the Apes franchise, but I also felt like I was straining to find that thread midst all the CGI bravura. The first half held so much promise, and climaxed with Koba's first act of human-inspired brutality, a moment we all knew was coming but was still shocking when it happened. Sadly, after that it all sort of descends into a muddled wash of blockbuster tropes; the earlier glimmers of artistry and poignancy overwhelmed by the typical: guns, bombs, and yelling.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most stupidly, thoughtlessly sexist movie I've seen in years. I'm stunned none of the mainstream reviews, or comments above, mention that obvious little tidbit. Seriously, this movie is 98.6% male and the 2 female roles are a fucking joke.

What a slap in the face to smart scifi fans this piece of shit is.

Great fx, though, for sure. But the plot? Ridiculously predictable, and very, very dumb, with cardboard characters who telegraph their arcs so obviously it's insulting. It's effectively a remake, in case folks don't know, of the fifth (and by far worst) of the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and the 3rd act climax hinging on the apes instantaneously learning how to operate semi-automatic weapons with no previous experience is so absurd it yanks you out of the world with no going back.

What a colossal disappointment. The critical acclaim is mystifying and inexplicable.
posted by mediareport at 8:44 AM on July 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

[sorry to scody, who did note the awful sexist garbage this movie shoved down our throats.]
posted by mediareport at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2014

I enjoyed it to some degree, but it seemed very predictable to me, and very in-your-face with its heavy handed message (e.g. "Here is an ape being good; now here is a human being good! Here is a human being bad; now here is an ape being bad! GET IT? GET IT? HUH? HUH?"

Also, the ending was very disappointing to me. It seems like immediately after successfully working together to stop a war, they just suddenly and completely gave up on peace for no reason at all except for a vague claim that more humans were coming and these ones were "warriors". So obviously those humans about whom the characters know virtually nothing couldn't possibly be reasoned with by a combined mutually respecting ape-human society. So we might as well go our separate ways now, and both prepare for war against each other. Obviously.
posted by Flunkie at 11:27 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most stupidly, thoughtlessly sexist movie I've seen in years. I'm stunned none of the mainstream reviews, or comments above, mention that obvious little tidbit. Seriously, this movie is 98.6% male and the 2 female roles are a fucking joke.

You know, i watched this movie at the latest showing on a thursday night just as something to do. I went in expecting an SEM* and was pleasantly surprised.

This is not an art piece at the level of the original, nor is it anywhere near other arty thinkpiece classics of that era like 2001. But when you go in essentially expecting it to be something at best like Dredd at the absolute best(which to be clear, i love, and think is one of the best popcorn movies ever made) and Transformers at the worst then the first half pleasantly surprises you.

That said, i did notice this. It just kept poking me in the back of the head. "Where the fuck are any women who aren't his wife, whose only lines are essentially to go "OMG R U SURE ABT GOING I GOING TOO!"(most cardboard character evar much puppet so wow) early on? Why is seemingly the only female ape shown Caesars wife/mate? It strikes me as completely bizarre, it's like the character list from a 90s FPS or something.

Overall, i think the first half of this movie gives it enough momentum that the second half is arguably forgivable. But the utter lack of female characters even as fucking CGI apes is... really bizarre. It's like the assassins creed thing, in that it almost strikes me as some weird conscious choice by some bizarrely sexist person with a lot of control over the writing/production. Because really, is there even another human woman with lines other than his wife? Because i remember clearly there isn't another ape besides Caesars who also says like... two things?

The weird thing is, i don't entirely dislike this movie. If you go into it and expect to judge it on it's second half of being an explosion movie, against it's peers of Assformers: Robots in ur Butt 8: The Rise of the Sphincteroids it's actually pretty fucking great. But the first half sets it up to be something much greater than it could have been, and the bizarre lack of women or female ape characters is one of those "cannot unsee" things once you realize it, if you're so inclined to care about or notice that sort of thing.

But really though, it's solidly good as an explosion movie. The fight choreography is awesome even if it's just a cartoon. And more than twice i noticed it start to do some cheesy action/kung fu/gun kata/whatever movie trope and essentially go "HAH, you thought i was gonna do that stupid overdone thing but nope i'm doing something else!". A few times it does go for the cheap seats, but still.

Basically, i think, if you're a fan of explosion movies and willing and capable of overlooking the bizarre lack of women it's solidly good at doing that job. If you expect the thinky, interesting movie the first half or so teases you with, then this is the equivalent of drunken whisky-dicked sex that goes flaccid right when it starts to get good. And it rubs your face in it a bit too, hinting back at that once its firmly shifted gears into an explosion movie.

But fuck, there's some hilarious stuff in the explosion part. It's almost worth watching just for the scene of Koba, Mr. Evil Ape dual-wielding a crew-served 50 cal machine gun and some type of large assault rifle like some sort of super-ape-Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator.

So yea, i don't know. I didn't love it, but i didn't think it was shit either. I liked it a lot more than most "Summer Movies" i've seen in the past few years despite the weird way it avoids having women as you know, characters like some old videogame and the wasted potential of the first half. But i think that mostly speaks to how bad a lot of movies have been lately, more than this being actually good.

If this had avoided the not women in refrigerators, but women in cold storage in that warehouse from Indiana Jones they put the ark of the covenant in i would probably give it like, a 6.5 or a 7/10 just on being a good SEM. But i honestly have no idea how to rate it now. I'm probably going to tell my friends to just wait til it's available for download and get really baked first or something, and warn them about the lack of women thing so they don't get too pissed off and can avoid it if they like. I think this is only digestible because of the first half and women issues if you were the type of person who thought Crank was a brilliant movie.

*SEM = stupid explosion movie, Not one of these. See the transformers FPP for context.
posted by emptythought at 1:18 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh and to be clear(and following the "do not edit for content" rule as well!) i completely don't understand the critical acclaim this is getting either. I mean i understand why reviewers are completely missing the lack of women, but this isn't actually a great movie. The first to second half transition is just too close to being essentially coitus interruptus for that.

And yea, that combined with the lack of women makes it kinda sting that it's getting such good reviews. I see that.
posted by emptythought at 1:20 PM on July 19, 2014

i completely don't understand the critical acclaim this is getting either.

It's getting a positive reception partly because it is subdued, nuanced, well-shot, and well-written for a PG-13 summer blockbuster. Remember, last weekend it was competing against The Purge: Anarchy and Transformers IV, the latter featuring laminated card of the "Romeo & Juliet law" as a joke.

Also, the bar for summer blockbuster has been set pretty low in the last few years. Inception, Elysium, and District 9 were all summer sci-fi blockbusters, and all suffered from either a lack of women or limited/problematic portrayals of women.
posted by FJT at 11:20 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed it, but agree with a lot of what's been said. As soon as the apes learn to use automatic weapons immediately and it goes explosion-heavy I felt sort of betrayed considering the slow build of the earlier plot.

I also noticed that there were no women humans or apes to speak of, outside of the paper thin doctor love interest and female wife character. Both of whom have perhaps 30 or so lines of dialog between them.

It's shame given the first two acts, but it still ends up being a decent action movie. The climatic fight scene with two computer generated primates is better than a majority of stuff I've seen with flesh and blood actors recently.
posted by codacorolla at 9:47 AM on July 26, 2014

Just watched this the other night, under the weird expectations-setting conditions of having forgotten there was a recent previous film and so trying to approach it as a direct sequel/prequel/whatever of the Tim Burton film. To which there was basically no narrative continuity, which was fine with me, but...heh. So, yes! A bit confusing, though the story such as it is stood well enough on its own that I didn't feel unfooted by the whole thing.

The fact that the film managed to fail to pass the Bechdel Test even when you include AN ENTIRE APE SOCIETY really is something. But most of the human characters didn't have much of a chance to establish themselves as particularly interesting in any case.

I liked enough things about the production that I'm ultimately in a reasonably positive place about it, but its strengths were very much in production detail and visual spectacle rather than in presenting a cohesive and interesting portrait of the, y'know, dawn of ape society. Which is a bummer because they seemed to have some pretty solid bits of promise there.

I wish the film had been more fundamentally ape-centric, mostly. Humans as peripheral actors we see through ape eyes, without side-plot stuff about humans-interacting-with-humans-in-thrillery-ways and so on.
posted by cortex at 6:20 PM on July 31, 2014

Curious lack of tension in this movie. Well trodden tropes tricked up to lead to the very same Hollywood shoot-em-up as per fucking usual. If there was a new idea in this movie, I didn't see it. One question I came away with was: why do most-if-not-all the "good" apes have white faces while most-if-not-all of the "bad" apes have black ones?
posted by telstar at 3:46 PM on September 17, 2014

Doleful Creature: “Sadly, after that it all sort of descends into a muddled wash of blockbuster tropes; the earlier glimmers of artistry and poignancy overwhelmed by the typical: guns, bombs, and yelling.”
Thanks. I was watching with an hour left, and now I can go to bed without seeing the end. I switched it off while they were listening to “The Weight.” I'm entirely uninterested in the battle. I wouldn't want to watch Maurice, the gentle orangutan teacher, get killed.

It's unfortunate that the second half is an entirely unnecessary battle, because I enjoyed the first half. I understand they wouldn't have made a "summer blockbuster" out of a movie where the apes and humans learn to trust each other, but it's still disappointing.

mediareport: “[…]the apes instantaneously learning how to operate semi-automatic weapons with no previous experience is so absurd it yanks you out of the world with no going back.”
Honestly, that happened in the first ten minutes for me because gasoline won't last "ten winters" in typical storage conditions. I almost turned it off before they even got back over the bridge.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:39 PM on June 27, 2015

This was much better than I expected it to be, and even with all the flaws noted above, is worth it just to watch Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar - just amazingly good, out-acting the human cast even through the ape face with the limitations that imposes.

I'll also be a contrarian in saying the fire/explosion/tank scenes in the second half were both visually spectacular and thrilling, and deliver the kind of action required by a summer blockbuster movie. Seriously - how can you hate on all that glorious action at the end. Chaos!

Really pissed off at Koba throwing Ash off the building - so, yes, I did care about the apes, a lot.

No one's mentioned the dialogue which I thought was particularly well-written; given the limited speech pattern of Caesar, who had to pause after almost every word. Nice job writers (there seems to have been a team of writers).

And one last thing: the shock of Caesar speaking for the first time: 'GO!' This was an awesome moment, and well-directed (thought the whole thing was well directed, in fact). JUST LOVE this scene, so effective.

Great movie and much better than Godzilla - just roll with the plot holes and have fun, I say!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:26 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't want to watch Maurice, the gentle orangutan teacher, get killed.

Spoiler: he gets wounded but survives, and also survives to the end of the next movie, War for the Planet of the Apes, so no worries there.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:47 PM on April 29

I just rewatched this last night in preparation for the new one coming out this week.

Terrific storyline where the ape/human interactions are concerned, kinda sexist as noted, terrific use of Serkis as Caesar, but for me, the biggest problem was that the last act was flabby and overlong.

This thing clocked in at 130 minutes. At like 105, I think it would have been substantially improved.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:05 AM on May 8

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