DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
Two words keep popping up whenever I'm trying to form my opinion on this film.
I've never been a huge fan of the Apes franchise, but Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasant surprise with a clever script and some great visuals. And even though this sequel is a weaker film, it is still a cut above most big budget blockbusters.
Even though Dawn has no real human characters, it manages to get away with it by fleshing out Ceasar and creating a cast of apes that look, sound and act as unique individuals. The humans hardly serve a purpose and do not evolve beyond their cardboard cutout essence. And even though each and every character behaves exactly like you expect them to, it still works because, well let's face it, it gives us an amazing villain. Koba is a fantastic creation. The animal side merging with the human side creating a vengeful and spiteful beast. If a villain's quality should be measured by how much you want them to lose, Koba ranks among the very best of them.
Even though the pacing in the script is very uneven, it still manages to get away with it because of its total dedication to its own universe. It gets from A to B without many surprises and takes a bit too long to get there, but the world Reeves sculpts and all action sequences he creates are of stunning quality. Whenever the plot meandered a bit too much, I just focussed on the unbelievably detailed visuals. From the ape village to a devastated San Francisco, the set pieces are all astonishing.
Even though its Achilles' Heel is its script, it still manages to evoke a sense grandness, brushing with classic themes from epic tragedies just enough to conjure up some palpable dramatic tension, making the cause of the protagonists matter and making the undercurrent of gravitas steer clear of obnoxious melodrama.
There is one thing I can't find fault with and that is with the visuals. Reeves has made one of the best looking films of the year. The apes are absolutely breathtaking. It's all in the eyes. That and the amazing symbiosis of acting and special effects. This is something that just doesn't cease to amaze me, how such creativity and ingenuity can cause such an amount of suspension of disbelief.
I hope this will set an example for future blockbusters, as it proves that dedication to an idea and creativity can lift a film to great heights. And even though it is flawed, it more than makes up for them by being so much more than just the sum of its parts.