Thursday Night Movie Club
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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Release Date: 11 July 2014

Director: Matt Reeves
Andy Serkis
Jason Clarke
Gary Oldman
Keri Russell
Toby Kebbell
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Kirk Acevedo
Nick Thurston
Terry Notary
Karin Konoval
Judy Greer
Jon Eyez
Enrique Murciano
Larramie Doc Shaw
Lee Ross
Blue Eyes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes poster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie poster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie poster
Andy Serkis stars as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic film. The advances in digital motion capture and accompanying special effects are stunning. The film is brutal, caring, dangerous, serene, sad, happy, ugly, beautiful, cruel, tender and emotionally touching.

After the apes have made their escape to freedom, a simian flu has decimated the human population. The world so familiar to the human population has been destroyed in the blink of an eye. While the humans make a valiant effort to rebuild some semblance of their former lives, the apes have created their own community in the forests outside of the former San Francisco.

The apes are evolving rapidly. They are living in crude, hand-built houses kept safe from the outside world by tall, sturdy walls. The apes are talking amongst themselves using sign language. Caesar and some of the apes are beginning to speak. Communication allows them to coordinate a complex attack plan. The humans better watch out! The apes are not hunting humans... today!

The apes have a few major problems. They have no way to gather intelligence. They have no idea if there are other ape colonies in other locations. They have no way to contact them. They have no idea what plans the remaining humans may have to attack the ape colony. All of these problems trouble the ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). Caesar justs want to be left alone and to live his life in peace. The apes are safe for the present. The future is uncertain for the apes and the humans.

Jason Clarke in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesThe relative calm is shattered when, of all things, a human, unknowingly, walks right into their midst. A relatively minor altercation sets in motion a complicated series of events that Caesar finds increasingly difficult to control. Every decision he makes is a test of his leadership. His control is slowly disintigrating.

A series of cross-cuts sets up the main parallels in the two opposing sides. The apes had no idea that humans still lived so close to them. The humans had no idea there was a colony of apes living just outside the safety of the ruined city. Some of the apes want to immediately attack the humans. Some humans want to immediately attack the apes. Both sides look to violence as a means to insure their own safety.

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is a human and an engineer. He and his assistants were on a survey mission to determine if a dam and hydro-electric plant is still functioning or if it can be repaired. The humans are running low on fuel reseves. Once the fuel is gone, so goes the electricity and plumbing. Humans have relied on technology for too many years. The prospect of "going back to nature" terrifies them.

Andy Serkis stars as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesMalcolm pleads with the humans reluctant leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to attempt to negotiate with the ape colony for temporary safe passage through ape territory in order to repair the plant. Dreyfus will get the hydro-electric plant operational... no matter what! If the apes refuse to negotiate, the humans will attack and seize control of the plant.

Malcolm meets with Caesar to discuss a mutually beneficial arrangement. If the apes agree to help the humans restore the plant to operational status, the humans will never return and the humans will never attack the apes. Caesar has seen more than enough of death. To insure that no more apes will be killed, he agrees to help. Actions speak louder than words.

Lurking in the shadows on both sides is a growing power struggle. Caesar's second in command Koba (Toby Kebbell) does not trust the humans. He secretly sends some apes to infiltrate the humans to discover their real intent. Dreyfus, assuming Malcolm will fail, begins preparing an attack.

This intelligence gives Koba the ammunition he needs. He assassinates Caesar and blames his death on the humans. Koba will lead the apes in an attack on the humans to avenge Caesar. The apes will destroy the humans once and for all. The chance for peace or war teeters on the brink.

Toby Kebbell and Andy Serkis star in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesMalcolm and his team are fleeing for their lives when they make an amazing discovery. The find Caesar's body and are surprised to find he is still alive. Malcolm's girlfriend and assistant Ellie (Keri Russell) nurses Caesar back to health. Caesar saved Malcolm. Malcolm saved Caesar. The two form a bond that will not be broken. Caesar must stop Koba. Malcolm must stop Dreyfus. Failure means doom for both peoples! Caesar and Malcolm slowly realize the inevitability of their predicament. Even if they succeed, they may not stop the building momentum fueling the events.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens with an extended sequence involving only a community of apes in the woods in "Somewhere, U.S.A." The sequence is stunning. No words are spoken although the apes are communicating using sign language. Even though the translation is written in English as subtitles, this in now way interferes with the story. The audience gets a very good look at this tight-knit society led by Caesar.

The C.G. effects are top-notch. Motion-capture technology renders the actors as real, living, breathing, interacting apes... not actors buried under makeup! Since each ape is portrayed by a different actor/stuntman using motion capture, each ape has his/her own personality depicted through subtle gestures and postures.

Andy Serkis stars as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesTo say Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar is stellar, stunning, even amazing, is a gross understatement. Serkis' facial expressions and gestures are very subtle but their meanings are clear. The audience knows what Caesar is feeling and thinking. The burdens of leadership weigh heavily on Caesar's shoulders slowly crushing him. Serkis portrays Caesar with a petpetual scowl. But during quieter times, Caesar can relax, enjoy life, make jokes and actually smile. When he must exert his leadership, Caesar rises to his full height which is head-and-shoulders above the other apes.

This is a community of wild/free apes who are slowly adopting human traits. Man kills Man. This leads to war and conflict. Therefore, Caesar's montra and Law #1 is: Ape No Kill Ape. It is a noble sentiment but like all laws, obeying them is the responsibility of the governed. Caesar can see the future, not literally. He sees the apes becoming more human. He also has some painful dealings with humans. Caesar finds this rapid evolution disturbing. All of these complex ideas/themes are reflected in Serkis' amazing portrayal combining speech, pantomimes and subtle physical changes to depict Caesar's thoughts and emotions.

Jason Clarke in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesTrust is another important theme. Caesar is ecstatic after the birth of his child. Shortly after, his wife becomes gravely ill. Ellie has "human" medicines that might save her. The drugs might kill her. Caesar makes the monumental decision to trust the humans, to the chagrin of many apes, including Koba.

The apes trust Caesar since he is their leader. Allegiances are changing for both Ape and Man. Some of the humans trust Caesar to help them restart the power plant. Meanwhile, other humans are preparing for battle. While Caesar is trusting the humans to do what they say they will do, Koba opens a rift among the apes after discovering the humans preparing for war. In a way, everyone is right! War or Peace all depends on the character of the leader. When trust breaks down, carefully built relationships collapse into utter chaos.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has every chance to be a horrible film. Think of Star Wars I-III. This story is a remake of an established story line. Every member of the audience knows where this story will end. What is the surprise factor? Everything!

The extended opening sequence involving the apes makes the apes sympathetic to the audience. The apes, like humans, are intelligent and they just want to live their lives in peace. The arrival of the humans, who immediately defend themselves violently, damages their calm. Life is never easy. Freedom is Never Free. The audience relates to these ideals.

Koba leads the Apes into battle in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDirector Matt Reeves takes the material to a higher level. The action sequences are stellar. Unlike the Transformers series, the battle sequences in Dawn are easy to follow. Reeves does not clobber the audience with the violence. Reeves shows the apes are physically superior to humans. Human intelligence gives them an edge as long as technology remains. Reeves films Serkis from camera angles, long shots, close-ups and gives Serkis full rein to act out the subtleties of Caesar's persona.

Writers Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa have crafted a very clever film. There are plenty of emotions on display. The film is exhilarating, suspenseful, action-packed. It has happy moments as well as sadness. Regrets...Caesar has a few. The C.G. apes are stunning in their realism. The apes are loving and tender. They also de-evolve into brute savages, much like human history.

Jason Clarke and Andy Serkis star in Dawn of the Planet of the ApesBomback and Jaffa add a very complex theme. In whom does the audience's allegiances lie? A catastrophe has decimated the planet affecting all life forms. The Apes and the Humans have the Evolutionary Right to scratch out their own existance. Can we live together in Peace? Caesar and Malcolm know that we can live in Peace. Human history says "No"!

The film ends on a very touching, tender moment. Caesar and Malcolm embrace as friends. The tide of history has changed. "Ape started the War. Humans are not forgiving." There is nothing more to be said. Future events are set in motion. The outcome is inevitable! Can two people change the course of history?