The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesTitle: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Director: Matt Reeves
Runtime: 130minutes

Just as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis does an incredible job with Caesar. Equally stunning is Toby Kebbell as Koba, essentially the antagonist of the film. The entire cast of apes are fantastic, but these two stand out simply because the focus is on them more so than the others. I loved Blue Eyes, as well, and enjoyed the obvious homage to the original Planet of the Apes character. The apes are full of life, and are the reason to watch this series. On the human side, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee all put on great performances. Oldman plays second-fiddle to the other three leads, but when he is on-screen, he demands our attention. His character could have been more fleshed out, but the story isn’t about the humans as much as it is about the apes, and that’s the way I want these films to be.

Story & Script
Dawn picks up ten years after the events of Rise. The apes have all but taken over as a virus has destroyed the vast majority of the world’s human population. In fact, the apes have not seen any humans in two years, and until they run into one in the woods, they think they are all but extinct. Unfortunately, the one they run into is a major asshole, and he ends up shooting an ape. This sparks what will eventually be the war between humans and apes. That is for another film, though, as this movie only deals with the first shots, so to speak. Caesar is still God of the apes, but when he decides to let the humans stay in the forest to try and get power to their home base, alpha ape, Koba (from Rise) decides to challenge Caesar’s authority. This is exactly what I was hoping this film would be. It is the picture of a world on the brink of a humans vs. apes war, and the first half of the film acts as the calm before the storm. The way the script is constructed is brilliant. If not for one move by one individual, this film ends on a happy note and the history of civilization is changed forever. Clearly that is not the case, and one moment changes the entire film’s world, just as it would in real life. I am bloody obsessed with the idea of this series – my full review of the entire Planet of the Apes film mythos can be found right here – and this will prove an important time in the history of apes vs. humans once this film franchise is finished. The next film is shaping up to be a full on war epic, and I cannot wait to see it.

Cloverfield. Let Me In. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Does anyone else have a three film stretch like Matt Reeves? The man is a brilliant director, and though that brilliance only came out in moments during the first two on that list, it is on full display here. Reeves finds some incredibly provocative shots in Dawn, and the whole world he and his team have created here is nothing short of stunning. I adore the post-apocalyptic San Francisco that Reeves comes up with, and though we only get moments of it, what is here is beautiful. Reeves makes virtually no missteps with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and I am ecstatic that this man is taking the helm again for the sequel.

I mentioned recently that I heard someone say on Twitter that CGI is a tool, like anything else a filmmaker has at his or her disposal. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but something that can be used to positive or negative results. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a perfect example of why this is a fact because the CGI is used expertly here and the result is overwhelmingly positive. I love the original series, but I could always tell it was people in ape costumes. That won’t work for a younger audience, generally speaking. The reason this new reboot series is so effective, in my eyes at least, is because of how realistic the apes seem. When they talk, I audibly gasp. When Caesar yells “GO!” at the start of this film, I get goosebumps and immediately lock in to what is happening on screen. This is a great example of why CGI should be given a chance, just like remakes.

I could watch this movie again right now if you asked me to. I will definitely watch it again soon because I want to check out the 3D disc that came in my steelbook (I watched in 2D today).

The Verdict
The Planet of the Apes series – including Rise and excluding Tim Burton’s piece of garbage – is one of my favorites of all-time, so Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had incredibly lofty standards to live up to. I even (half jokingly) told my friends that this had the potential to be the greatest film of all-time after I saw the trailers. While it isn’t the greatest, it absolutely is great, and continues in the tradition of the rest of the series. I cannot wait to see where this world goes next.