Film Face-off: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' vs. 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Film Face-off: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' vs. 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Jul 14, 2014

If this article was all about filling some sort of word-count mandate we could simply type Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes every single time. That's not going to happen so from now on we'll be using the hip slang of ROTPOTA and DOTPOTA.

The rebooted franchise was surprisingly successful in the summer of 2011, grossing more than $176 million at the domestic box office, and was generally well-received by critics. The film starred James Franco, Andy Serkis and John Lithgow. The times, they are a changin' and 10 winters have passed in the movie world since ROTPOTA. Serkis is back as the motion-captured great ape Caesar. What else is new?

We'll get to that in this week's Film Face-off of Rise of the Planet of the Apes versus Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, oops we mean ROTPOTA versus DOTPOTA.



Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Caesar begins his life as an orphan, taken in by Will. He's supersmart thanks to Will's formula and his mom's genes. Eventually he's taken to a primate shelter and chooses to help other apes evolve.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Caesar lives like a good king in a Northern California forest (just imagine the Ewok village on the forest moon of Endor). He has a wife, and two kids. He must try to contain his ape community and quell the threat of humans.

Winner: ROTPOTA. The best visual moment in ROTPOTA is when Caesar turns three and runs/swings through Will's entire house. It's a thing of beauty and shows the spirit of Caesar perfectly. There is nothing joyous about Caesar this time around except when he briefly welcomes his new son into the world. Also, while he has a lot on his plate, couldn't he spend a little more time with his wife? "Think before you act, son," is the motivation that pushes him through DOTPOTA, but as soon as he says it to Blue Eyes, we realize his son is going to go through growing pains. And while it's not the sequel's fault, it's amazing when Caesar talks in ROTPOTA and just doesn't have the same impact this time around.


The Dumb Humans

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Franco's Will steals drugs, steals apes, treats his dad like a genuine pig, and uses Caesar to hit on a woman (Freida Pinto). Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) is his boss that pushes things too quickly. John (Brian Cox) is mean, Dodge (Tom Felton) is meaner.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) loves the apes without thinking things through. Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shoots first, doesn't want to ask questions later. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) wants to bring out the big guns before talking to the apes.

Winner: DOTPOTA. DOTPOTA beats ROTPOTA because Franco is foolish. His actions almost single-handedly ruin mankind, even if he did mean well. Think about how ROTPOTA ends, with Will talking to Caesar and wishing him and all his apes friends well, once again not thinking through how the world could/should react to this. We're not saying ROTPOTA is full of smart humans, but at least they are thinking about their own survival.


The Great Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Beyond Caesar we have Maurice (Karin Konoval) the orangutan, Rocket (Terry Notary), Buck (Richard Ridings the gorilla, and Koba (Christopher Gordon).

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This time around Toby Kebbell is the motion-captured Koba. Nick Thurston is Blue Eyes. Judy Greer is Cornelia, who we think is Caesar's wife, but don't quote us on that.

Winner: ROTPOTA. The primate shelter is where we get to know Maurice, Rocket and Buck. Watching Maurice continues to be amazing in DOTPOTA, but Koba is the true star of the sequel. The moments when Koba acts like an old-school ape toward a few gun-toting humans are really the only funny scenes that stand out. Maurice is trying to connect to Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) but it takes too long and never fully pays off. Koba in DOTPOTA is almost enough of the reason for the sequel to win, but that primate shelter is flawless.


The Wet-Blanket Women

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Caroline (Pinto) is a veterinarian who falls for Will.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ellie (Keri Russell) is a doctor who is with Malcolm.

Winner: DOTPOTA. Caroline learns way too late that Caesar is extra special. Sure, she immediately notices that he can sign, but if you hang out with Caesar for a few minutes you realize who you're dealing with. The film (in what we hope is an editing time/sequence error) has Caroline taking multiple years to get it. Beyond that, she's just kind of there, never helping take the film to another level. With Ellie, it appears DOTPOTA writers watched The Walking Dead where Michonne (Danai Gurira) bonds with Carl (Chandler Riggs) over her dead child. They simply borrow it. Hopefully they will develop a fully dynamic female (ape or human) for the sequels.


The Phrase

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Why cookie Rocket?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Caesar loves humans more than apes!

Winner: ROTPOTA. In the context of the film "Why cookie Rocket?" is a great showcase of Caesar teaching others (in this case Maurice). "Caesar loves humans more than apes," is a low blow delivered by Koba. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the other apes going "Ooooooo," after that one. "Why cookie Rocket?" took on a life of its own, becoming one of the best catchphrases to come out of any 2011 film.


OVERALL WINNER: Rise of the Planet of the Apes beats Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 3-2.

The sequel is really good, and amazing to look at. The problem is there isn't one prolonged sequence that equals Caesar's time in "prison" getting to know/learn/command the other apes. There also isn't much joy to go around, with war taking center stage. Sure, that's what happens when dumb humans and one dumb ape ruin it for everyone. Looking at this world is much better than seeing the stories play out. After all, we know it eventually is no longer a "Rise" or a "Dawn" but just a planet full of apes. Speaking of the titles, is it too late to call the first film "Dawn" and the second one "Rise"? It technically makes more sense.




Categories: Features, In Theaters
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