PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Ten years after the worldwide pandemic of the deadly ALZ-113 virus (known as the Simian Flu), human civilization is completely destroyed following martial law, civil unrest and the economic collapse of every country in the world. Over 90% of the human population has died in the pandemic, while apes with genetically enhanced intelligence have started to build a civilization of their own.
In the ruins of San Francisco, Caesar leads and governs an ape colony located in the Muir Woods. While walking through the forest, Caesar’s son Blue Eyes and his friend Ash encounter a human named Carver, who panics and shoots Ash, wounding him. Carver calls for the rest of his small party of armed survivors, led by a man named Malcolm, while Blue Eyes calls for the other apes. Caesar orders the humans to leave. The remaining humans in San Francisco, who are genetically immune to the virus, are living in a guarded and unfinished high-rise tower within the ruined city. Prompted by Koba, a scarred bonobo who holds a grudge against humans for his mistreatment, Caesar brings an army of apes to the city tower where he conveys the message that while the apes do not want war, they will fight to defend their home. He demands that the humans stay in their territory and states the apes will stay in theirs too.
Malcolm convinces his fellow leader Dreyfus to give him three days to reconcile with the apes to gain access to a hydroelectric dam in their territory, which could provide long-term power to the city. Dreyfus, distrustful of the apes, arms survivors using an abandoned armory. Malcolm then travels into the ape village, but is captured by gorilla guards, who bring him to Caesar. After a tense discussion, Caesar allows Malcolm to work on the dam’s generator, if they surrender their guns. As Malcolm, his wife Ellie and son Alexander work, they bond with the apes. Mutual distrust of both sides gradually subsides; the truce is endangered when Caesar’s infant son discovers a shotgun smuggled in by Carver, but the two sides reconcile when Ellie offers to help treat Caesar’s ill wife Cornelia with antibiotics. Meanwhile, Koba discovers the armory and confronts Caesar, questioning his allegiance and taunting him over his “love” for humans. In response, Caesar severely beats Koba, but at the last moment refrains from killing him; adhering to his philosophy that “ape not kill ape,” Caesar hesitantly forgives Koba. The furious Koba then returns to the armory, where he steals an assault rifle and murders two human guards. Returning home, he secretly kills Carver, stealing his lighter and cap.
The dam is eventually repaired, restoring power to the city. During the celebration, Koba sets fire to the apes’ home, then, unseen to anyone else, shoots Caesar in the shoulder, causing him to fall from the settlement’s main tree. In the panic of the loss of the alpha and the fire, Koba takes charge, and having planted Carver’s cap at the scene of the shooting, urging the apes to fight against the humans. Malcolm’s group hides as Koba leads the apes into San Francisco. The apes plunder the armory and charge the tower’s gates. Despite heavy casualties, the apes breach the gates using a hijacked tank, overrun the tower and imprison all the humans as Dreyfus flees underground. When Ash refuses Koba’s orders to kill unarmed humans, citing Caesar’s teachings, Koba kills Ash and imprisons all those known to be loyal to Caesar.
Malcolm’s group finds Caesar barely alive and transport him to his former home in San Francisco. Caesar reveals to Malcolm that Koba shot him, realizing his notion that apes were better than humans was naïve and that apes can be as violent as humans. Malcolm leaves the group and heads to the city to find medical supplies for Caesar. While looking for medical supplies, Malcolm encounters Blue Eyes; disenchanted with Koba’s leadership, the young ape spares Malcolm’s life and returns to the house with him, where he reconciles with his father. Caesar grows nostalgic watching a video clip from his childhood of his former owner and father figure Will Rodman on his old camcorder as Malcolm learns of Caesar’s past. A plan is put into action: Blue Eyes returns to the tower and frees the caged humans and apes loyal to Caesar, then Malcolm leads the apes, unseen, into the tower from below. After accomplishing this, Malcolm encounters Dreyfus, who informs him that his men have made radio contact with more survivors at a military base to the north, who are on their way to help fight the apes. Caesar confronts Koba at the top of the tower, but as they battle, Dreyfus detonates C-4 charges he has planted beneath the tower. The resulting explosion kills him and collapses part of the tower. Caesar overpowers Koba, with Koba hanging over the edge of the tower. Pleading for his life, Koba reminds Caesar that apes do not kill apes, but Caesar states that Koba is not an ape and lets him fall to his death.
Malcolm informs Caesar of the impending arrival of human military reinforcements and both lament the lost opportunity for peace. Caesar tells Malcolm that the humans will never forgive the apes for the war they started and advises him to leave with his family for safety as the two of them acknowledge their friendship. As Malcolm disappears into the shadows, Caesar stands before a kneeling mass of apes, awaiting the war to come.
As much as I hate and detest remakes/reboots, I will admit that sometimes they have a good idea, such as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Because someone in Hollywood pulled their heads out of their ass and came up with an actual idea, we now have a franchise on our hands. The second film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, promises to be more action and less exposition, but is it worth watching?
What is this about?
A decade after their escape, Caesar and his fellow super-intelligent apes strike a tenuous peace with human survivors of the simian virus. But all-out war is on the horizon, a conflict that will determine which species will dominate the planet.
What did I like?
Little humans. In films such as the Transformers franchise and others where the stars are obviously NOT the humans, we get the opposite of what we paid to see. Instead, we are force-fed human characters in a veiled attempt to save money on CG. That is not the case with this film, as it spares no expense with the apes, nor does it shove humans down our throats. Sure, we get some human stuff, but it is just enough to create plot and conflict. Maybe some other films should take note, I’m just saying.
Mirroring viewpoints. Heading into the climax, I noticed that the faction of humans and apes were mirroring each other in their viewpoints. On one side, there was Caesar and Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke, who wanted peace and harmony, while on the other side there was Koba and Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman, who wanted to bring about a great war. This is especially obvious during the final confrontation between Caesar and Koba because at the same time they are slugging it out, Clarke and Oldman’s characters are having a discussion about their opposing views and who is right and wrong. It really is a nice touch to show these things happening at the same time.
Apes. I’m more of a practical effects/stop motion guy. If you’re an avid reader of this blog, I think you can tell than by now. With that said, though, I cannot deny that CG technology is ever improving. Looking at the apes, I was impressed with how lifelike they were, both in design and portrayal. Tell me, when was the last time you looked into a CG apes eyes and saw raw emotion? Why is it Andy Serkis didn’t win an Oscar for this, again? The man was robbed!!!
What didn’t I like?
Wife and kid. Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who play the wife and kid to Jason Clarke’s character try to insert themselves and be relevant to the plot, but it just wasn’t happening for me. That isn’t my issue, though. As the film closes, they just suddenly disappear. Where did they go? It never is mentioned where they disappeared to, nor are they even mentioned. They were just here one scene and gone the next.
Apism. Not to sound like an ape racist (would that be an apist?), but all these apes looked the same to me, save for Koba and Blue Eyes. The only reason those two stood out was because of their scars. Do I think they needed name tags? No, but surely as these apes learn more and more to be their own society some individuality has to start to show, at least for the sake of the audience. At least the gorilla and the orange orangutan had no problem being recognized, as they are the only ones.
That one guy. Yep, there is always that one guy. You know, the one that just wants to see the world burn because he doesn’t like or is scared of something? The first human we see, turns out to be a giant asshole. He shoots an ape just because he was frightened, which becomes the catalyst for this whole film in some respects, around the campfire he talks about how much he hates them, and the next day he is shown to have smuggled a gun up to the dam, when Caesar had forbidden them (made worse by the fact that it was Caesar’s infant son that found it!) As far as being one of the most hated characters in the film, he succeeds. Was he necessary? Maybe for a couple of scenes, but that was it. I feel this guy got way too much screentime, while Gary Oldman was given just a couple of minutes more than James Franco’s clips from the first film!
Let’s see…the apes have risen and we’ve seen the dawn of their dominance. War is next! Seriously, that is the name of the next film. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had the unenviable task of serving as a sequel and filler until we get to said war. Not many films in this spot end up as successes, but there is one that stands out amongst all the others, Empire Strikes Back! Now, this isn’t in the same league as the piece of cinematic perfection, nothing is, but it does seem to be in the same ballpark. This is a film that has great direction, writers who actually care about the project and the people who will be watching it, and great actors. Mix those factors together and you’re sure to get a great film. The issues I have are few and far between, so do I recommend this? Yes, very much so, but I advise you to watch the first film if it has been awhile, if for no other reason than to refresh your memory.
4 3/4 out of 5 stars