So. Which is it? Are the second parts of movie sagas always the worst or the best? Empire Strikes Back? Aliens? Terminator 2? There is no definite answer BUT Dawn of the planet of the apes is most certainly a second part of a trilogy and must be viewed as such.
I will agree with most people living on this rock and completely denounce the 2001 Tim Burton remake with Marky Mark and the slack jawed Estella Warren. Much like the creators of this new trilogy, let's just all pretend that it never existed! Before embarking for the local cinema to finally watch Andy Serkis being an ape again, I combed through opinions concerning 'DOTPOTA' (yes, the title is slightly ridiculous). The general consensus was that people were blown away by the CGI and that we are entering a new era of cinema, almost deeming actors as almost obsolete with what WETA has done here... really? Have these people NOT watched Avatar?
Let's get this out of the way first then. There is nothing mind-blowing about the CGI used in bringing the apes to life. This is far from the first time that something 'life-like' was rendered for a film. It certainly is very good work by WETA but nowhere near ground-breaking or pioneering. Thankfully, however, the CGI was not crap therefore giving me the free ground to view the film for what it really was without hitching too much on all the post-production work involved. I will steer clear from spoilers.
At the end of Rise of the planet of the apes we are left with the human populace of earth (yeah, us) fighting the infection spread by the intelligence-boosting drug. This lovely planetary reset sets up the stage for what eventually becomes a planet ruled by apes as has it has been known since the 60's. The two groups of survivors (humans and apes) are going through the process on different terms. We, having shed our tribal ways ages ago, now lack the electricity we depended on and must look for alternative ways of dealing with life whereas the apes are thriving in the woods doing exactly what WE did back in the days of loincloths and grunts. So far so good.
Generally DOTPOTA has an episodic feel to it. It is as if the writer and director set out to deliver something that practically ended as it started with a peak somewhere in the middle. I literally felt like I was watching an episode of "Apes on earth" or something along those lines. The only thing missing was a commercial break. "What will this ape do now? Does it have it in him to overcome adversity?". I don't appreciate that characteristic when it is evident in films although I can understand how the creators could have stumbled away from the beaten path since this IS a second part of a trilogy and ultimately that is what saved the film for me.
Also, people complained about seeing way more of what the apes were doing than the humans. Wasn't that the case in the 1968 Schaffner original? There was nothing wrong with the amount of apexposition (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE!?!?) since the apes held on to their characters from 'Rise'. A small suggestion is to actually watch 'Rise' before heading down to your local cinema to watch DOTPOTA in order to feel more familiar with the apes on screen. Namely Caesar and Koba who are not only prominent in the story but pretty much actually star in the film. I found myself rooting for the apes but then it dawned (DO YOU SEE???) on me. I was rooting for the enemy. The creature that will enslave my kind and rule this planet, mainly because my kind failed miserably (always within the context of this film. Nothing to do with reality, nope). And no... I did not root for the Na'vi!
Throughout the film you will make out the parallel lines drawn between the apes and humans. How they are actually the same yet on different parts of their evolutionary path. Plenty of action on tap, very little of Gary Oldman (is this a thing now? Like Cranston in Godzilla? 7-minute contracts? Come on...) and a conclusion that leaves plenty of space for an epic "Us vs Them" in the third part of this trilogy.
DOTPOTA is by no means a bad film but it is not the masterpiece that I have seen it lauded as on the interwebz. Personally I enjoyed 'Rise' more due to the buildup and the different character of the story, science fiction with a blend of horror and suspense! In 'Rise' we get the origins tale and it works. We get to see how everything started. In DOTPOTA we see an episode of what is going on, that is the best way I could describe it. When the trilogy is completed, only then will I be able to "place" DOTPOTA as a complete film since now it's just hanging in cinema limbo waiting to be given meaning by the ending of this trilogy.
- Frixos Masouras 2014