REVIEW: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

11 07 2014

Dawn of ApesThe dominant attitude that seems to prevail when making sequels is to give people more of the same.  If it functioned well enough the first time to justify a second helping, something had to be working, right?

Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” on the other hand, completely defies the logic.  While Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 series reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” focused on scientific ethics and human progress, its follow-up goes in a completely different direction.  If it weren’t for the astonishing motion-capture apes, the casual onlooker might not even be able to pair the films in the same series.

I must applaud Fox, the studio willing to front the $170 million budget, for allowing a new director to take one of their most vital franchises into uncharted territory.  Reeves uses no marquee names (unless you count Gary Oldman), focuses mainly on the apes, and never caves to a large-scale battle that could level an entire urban area.  That was likely not an immediately confidence-inspiring vision, especially given the tepid commercial reception to Reeves’ 2010 arty horror film “Let Me In.”

But “Dawn” works so well because it does not feel tethered to anyone’s agenda other than that of its creative team.  The film has the ability to explore what the series can be as opposed to how much it can stretch what it already is.  Reeves makes some exciting discoveries with this freedom that further energize what was already a fascinating franchise.  He leaves us excited for whatever sequel may follow, despite leaving no obvious indications of what the next film might entail.

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