Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A disappointing second entry into the franchise

The first entry into the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, Rise, shocked viewers. Going in with no expectations they were rewarded with a largely enjoyable film, far from exceptional but deserving of a sequel. Now the initial wonderment of the motion capture has faded the flaws of the successor are exposed mercilessly.

What is particularly infuriating about these flaws is that they are the exact same ones present in the previous entry to the franchise. The most blatant of which is the gender diversity, or rather lack of. Again there is only one notable female character during the film and unsurprisingly, it’s a love interest who receives no attention besides the one scene in which she has utilitarian value. There was also the addition of an utterly forgettable and overly emotional son but fortunately as the writers do not seem to be fond of character development, any hopes of an explored family dynamic were short lived. His character could have been removed entirely and the narrative wouldn’t have to be changed at all.

After successfully solving the issue of gender, the writers then decided that they should progress onto race. Or rather they forgot about it, realised just before they were due to start filming and in a last minute effort to save face brought in a black actor to stand in the background of a few scenes, most notably swaying out of focus to The Band’s hit song The Weight. Quite frankly it is appalling that this is still an topic that has to be discussed. 1 in 17 people in San Francisco are black and 1 in 3 are asian, yet are we to assume that all but one of those people died?

A decade has passed since the Apes crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and the world is a very different place. Thanks to a questionable quality real news/inserted fake news compilation we learn that the virus has spread across the globe, with only 1 in 500 possessing genetic immunity. The world population is now 14 million and the once mighty San Francisco is reduced to a colony of a couple thousand.

In an attempt to regain constant power, a small group head for a dam on the edge of the city. Unbeknownst to them it is on the border of a thriving ape colony, which quickly captures them. Against the opinion of his left hand ape Kuba, Caesar helps the humans restore power in a peace offering. A decision that Kuba does not take well, storming off to spy on the humans, looking for something to stir up anger. He finds just that, humans are stockpiling weapons and ammunition but when Kuba comes back, Caesar does not want to know. Kuba wants war, and after an apparent assassination of Caesar, a war he gets.

The subsequent battle we see is awe inspiring. The human colony is settled in an eternally-under-construction tower block and has one entrance, which they guard with all their might. Rather than climb into the tower from above and avoid any ape casualties they decide to send in the cavalry units to charge the main gate followed swiftly by the infantry for our enjoyment. Seeing 50 apes on horseback charging in formation while free firing machine guns is not something I knew I wanted to see, but as they appeared through the fog I was exhilarated.

That sums up Dawn for me, it is not a good film, barely mediocre, but it scratches a cinematic itch. The part of me that wants to see highly financed chaos and war, and is willing to sit through over two hours of insipid viewing to get there.

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