If ever there was doubt as to Andy Serkis, please remove. If ever we needed a time machine to go back and get him that Oscar, please build. If ever there was a time fanboys needed to ponder something Age of Ultron, Serkis' role would be just that. He acts as the linchpin for an Apes sequel that not only utilizes its cast as a hidden trump card, but builds a strong foundation on the thoroughly engaging script, all topped off by the pillar that is Serkis' Cesar.
Not divulging much, the film picks up from Rise in a pretty coherent and fittingly chronological manner. It's dystopic and post-apocalyptic in its own right but the story places the apes and humans, front and center, yet precariously perched. Cesar's ebb and flow brings about the fine and delicate balance which Gary Oldman tempers so well as a foil. The tone of the film isn't that much a stark contrast to its predecessor but it's much more brooding, grim and bitter as one would expect - with blame, tension and many tentative elements sewn and threaded at just the right plot points. The suspense is neatly built in along with some riveting action sequences that really leave you pondering what's CGI and what isn't.
Rupert Wyatt started the story off slowly a few years aback and this patience comes full-circle. Rise was meant to be a precursor in every sense of the word and we see why here. Dawn is fast-paced, breathes at opportune moments for exposition while letting the human element take spotlight, when needed. It's not just bland and overdone a la Godzilla or Signs or Transformers. These components play off each other's strengths but give the talisman called Cesar his time to shine. He does so remarkably and may well be the best character we connect with and empathize with this summer.
Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver continue in the same marvelous writing vein as before but more so, they have Matt Reeves' unique vision here to bring about the most dire of circumstances. His cinematography makes you care and it has you well-submerged in the intensity on-screen, the rivalries and of course, immersed in the impending wars. This film isn't about just suspended belief but it's about morals, rights, politics, cynicism and other satirical POVs and perspectives which we need to answer and tackle. Thank God it's done by Serkis' facial expressions, some cheeky dialogue, nifty science and homage to what sci-fi needs to be as it evolves. The franchise, the genre and so many other things are done right, that it's hard to ignore or underplay how big this movie is. You connect with the characters, ape and humans alike, and feel what they feel. Top-notch storytelling and stellar visual direction.
One of the, if not THE, best movie of the year, rivalling The Winter Soldier.