Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review
It’s been years since the “Simian Flu” took over. Since a sizable portion of the population was wiped out, the apes have retreated to the Muir Woods, where they’ve built a community. It’s there that they prey on weaker animals for food and challenge larger ones so they can prove their dominance.
There are suitable shelters and effective weapons, and they have even trained horses to serve as transportation. They have established a language (via sign language and helpful subtitles), families and close bonds with one another. And, as the title suggests, the apes are just beginning.
While two apes are out exploring, they come across a group of humans, one of whom shoots an ape in a panic. The leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis, reprising his role from 2011’s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES), warns the humans to go back to their city. It’s back in the ruins of San Francisco that one of the country’s few immune survivors, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, adding another popular franchise to his credits, after the BATMAN, HARRY POTTER and KUNG FU PANDA series), announces the plan to repair a dam and use the generator to restore power to the city. It’s that plan that leads to both understanding and distrust (within and outside of species), as well as frank discussions on the necessities of both cooperation and war.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES wastes no time in setting up the events that will lead to the inevitable clash. In laying the groundwork so quickly, the movie can show its teeth more often. But it doesn’t try to make the movie all about the war; there is a story here with ponderable ideas, such as, Do humans regress if another species progresses? and, At what point, if any, does collaboration between varying mindsets become possible? This may be categorized as a summer blockbuster (it’s grossed more than $700 million worldwide), but that doesn’t mean there can’t be an intelligent screenplay (here penned by Mark Bomback, who also wrote 2013’s THE WOLVERINE and 2012’s TOTAL RECALL, and Rick Jaffa, who co-wrote RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES).
One of the great achievements of the series, particularly this sequel directed by Matt Reeves (2008’s CLOVERFIELD, 2010’s LET ME IN), is making the apes fully fleshed out characters. They aren’t just animals out to kill (like a cheap horror movie); they have needs and lives of their own, and we understand why they react the way they do once humans begin disturbing their settlement and new way of life. At the same time, it’s easy to see why some of the humans feel they need to bring down their enemies in order to survive.
Another is the remarkable performance by Serkis, who has transformed motion capture acting and highlighted it as an art form in itself. With a seamless mix of language, physical movement and special effects, Serkis gives a second (of at least three) outstanding turn as Caesar and shows why such a performance can be treated at the same level as a more traditional one.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is an excellent transfer that features incredible details in sets, skin and costumes, as well as fine textures in the apes’ hair that make them seem more lifelike. The black levels are also strong and the colors (primarily darker tones) are accurate
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1; French Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer is without flaw, with an excellent score and the sound effects that put the viewer in the settings and action.
Audio commentary by Matt Reeves: Reeves offers a solid and entertaining track (as he did on CLOVERFIELD), dividing the time between stories and technical bits.
Journey to Dawn (8:47) focuses on the revival of the series and the filmmakers’ attempts to “take it to another level.”
Andy Serkis: Rediscovering Caesar (9:02) puts the spotlight on Serkis and some of the difficulties of playing a character through motion capture.
Humans and Apes: The Cast of DAWN (17:47): This featurette looks at the plot, themes and the primary cast of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
The World of DAWN (14:31) looks at the production design of the movie through interviews and on-set footage.
The Ape Community (10:26): Reeves, Serkis and more discuss how the apes have progressed from RISE to DAWN.
Move Like an Ape: An Artist’s Medium (15:25): This featurette shows how the cast and crew worked to make the apes’ movements as real as possible.
Weta and DAWN (20:27): This featurette focuses on the New Zealand-based special effects company and its work on DAWN.
The Fight for a New Dawn (16:00) is dedicated to the action sequences and fight choreography.
Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Matt Reeves (4:34): There are three here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Ape Ceremony,” “Entering the Dam” and “Camp Here.”
Gallery: Concept Art, Characters, Costumes and Props.