The movie picks up ten years after Rise ends. The simian flu teased at the end of Rise has taken hold of humanity and hasn’t let go, Wreaking havoc on humans and shutting down any sort of government in the United States and quite possibly the world. The surviving humans have set up a colony in San Fransisco and have been attempting to rebuild and make contact with any other surviving groups. The Apes however have flourished since the outbreak. They’ve become more intelligent, learning to speak, they hunt in groups, and have built somewhat of a civilization. Caesar is significantly older and has become a father of two, and he proudly leads the apes along with his second in command Koba. But when an unfortunate run in with a group of humans creates fear within the apes’ society, it creates a rift between the apes, and Caesar doesn’t know who he can trust.
Like in Rise, The apes have been created from a mix of CGI and actors in motion capture suits. I cannot stress enough how incredible both of these elements worked together in such unity to create a truly stunning finished product. The visual effects were second to none. Each environment was stunning, but the apes were the most realistic CGI animals I have ever seen. Serkis and his mocap counterparts brought an unbelievable amount of realism and fluidity to the movement of the apes. They showed just as much, if not more, emotion through only their movement and actions, and not only brought the creatures to life, but instilled an emotional bond with the apes into the audience.
Speaking of emotion, the writers knew exactly what they were doing as well. The scenes in the beginning of the movie drew the audience’s affection to the apes. We began to root for them after seeing how successfully they had evolved. We learn of their bonds with each other and their motivations and we want them to succeed. Likewise, with the humans, we get a strong understanding of their plight, their fight to save humanity and modern civilization, and the motivations behind their actions. Anytime an action sequence occurred, I would tense up because I found myself rooting for both sides simultaneously.
One thing that really stuck out to me was the sound design. Dawn had some of the most impressive sound design I’ve ever seen in any movie. The surround sound experience was mixed so perfectly and immersed me in a way that I’ve never been immersed in a movie before. The atmospheric sounds were spot on and made you feel like you were in the middle of the human colony, or hanging out with the apes in the middle of the forest. On the same note, Michael Giacchino’s score was sublime. With a mix of his own style with a touch of John Williams, he delivered one of the most enjoyable scores of the summer movie season.
The action sequences were incredible. This goes back to the VFX department. I can’t speak enough of the tremendous work they did to animate the action. From the human’s first encounter with the apes, to the final battle I was on the edge of my seat, marveling at the spectacle before me. Apes delivers some of the biggest and best action scenes this year, and boy were they exciting.
The movie was wildly entertaining, a blast to watch, had plenty of cinematic and VFX eye candy, and is unmatched in the quality of its filmmaking. One of my favorite images taken from the film was the opening shot, which mirrors the final shot, giving the movie an impeccably satisfying bookend effect. Dawn is an impressive sequel, and possibly the best in the series, improving on everything its predecessor accomplished. The acting, the writing, the effects, the action, the score and all of the other elements come together to form an awe inducing cinematic masterpiece.