There’s a lot to like about Dawn. Like a lot of great sequels, the themes are a lot darker than its predecessor, and that in itself lends an emotional weight to the proceedings, adding to the feeling that there is a lot at stake to the events that unfold on-screen.
There is a more focus on the apes this time around, and the perfect marriage of technical wizardry coupled with nuanced motion performance allows the film-maker to create scenes that are both subtle and yet effective with very minimal (if any) dialogue. In fact the first ten minutes of the movie is largely silent, with the apes communicating with sign language, and yet the scenes deftly convey their intent without the need for heavy exposition and the viewer can almost feel the emotions and thoughts of each of the primates just by their body language.
A lot of the movie centres around Caesar (Andy Serkis), and you can see that this is an ape that feels the consequences of every decision he has made in the ten years between the events in the first film and this one. The weight of the world is on his shoulders as he tries to look after his primate family, with weariness being an undertone of his every move.
Speaking of Caesar’s family, the community of apes is made up of characters that movie-goers will recognise from the previous movie, with the likes of Maurice the Orang-utan and Koba (Caesar’s second in charge), and even the minor characters (old and new) are given personalities that make them believable in the context of the film. A lot of attention too has been put into the dwelling of the simians, creating an environment that looks both realistic and practical.
The bulk of the movie deals with the interaction of the Apes with the humans, whose numbers have been decimated by the Simian Flu from the first film and who are now struggling to keep a semblance of civilisation. It juxtaposes the viewpoints of characters in both the human and the simian camp, showing idealistic leaders with dreams of peaceful co-existence standing side by side with antagonists that want to wipe out the other species. But one can even sympathise with the motivations of the antagonists, as you can see what drives their actions, in effect doing what they think is best for their respective people.
With a good mix of tension, action and even a little humour here and there, I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a 9 out of 10.