Review of 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

2nd film in the 'Planet of the Apes' series

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes.jpg The second instalment in the contemporary retelling of the “Planet of the Apes” story (the original being from 1968 staring Charlton Heston) here seeing the human population decimated from the “Simian Flu” virus released in the first film. A small group of survivors are holed up in the ruins of San Francisco lead by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). A group of apes headed by the chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis), the first intelligent ape from the first film, have formed an independent community living in the mountains outside of the city. A group of humans, lead by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), head into the woods to seek out a hydroelectric dam to return electricity and therefore civilisation to their settlement. When a member of the group encounters the apes he shoots one of the apes out of fear. Ceasar is forced to act to try to enforce the tenuous peace he knows exists between the two races. Taking a large group of ape warriors, Caesar, heads into the city to warn the humans that they should stay clear of the apes. Malcolm, however, senses the rationality in Caesar so once again returns to the woods to reason with him. Caesar agrees to allow a small group of humans to investigate the damn. As repairs begin a group of apes, head up by the Caesar's aggressive lieutenant Koba (Toby Kebbell) mistrust the humans and see Caesar as weak for giving into them, travel into the city and discover a large cache of weapons the humans have put aside to defend their colony. Realising they can use these weapons to take control of the apes away from Caesar but also attack the humans Koba acts…the war has begun.

I see the Planet of the Apes a fairly hard-core Science Fiction franchise touching on fairly complex issues regarding the nature of humanity and it's hubris. Obviously there are some amazing sets here and the effects have to be seen to be believed that will appeal to many - Incredibly realistic with the actors putting in amazing performances as the apes with the incredible motion-capture headed up by Andy Serkis who is, of course, well known for his portraying Gollum in Lord of the Rings and as King Kong in the incredible Peter Jackson movie. The action is also incredibly well choreographed with the humans and apes seamlessly interacting with one another. We are able to care deeply for the troubled Caesar, his sick wife and his new son with very little leaps of imagination - We believe that they are real, breathing, characters with recognisable humanity yet still managing to be very much apes. When the often very “personal” violence comes to those we have come to know we really feel it - A sign that the filmmakers have really managed to convince us of the impossible.

An amazing, though fairly simple, story with a finale that is not altogether unexpected though we nonetheless come upon with great regret. The latest instalment called “War for the Planet of the Apes” leaves little in doubt as what comes now.

With a relatively slow middle section the end of the film ramps up the action considerably with a set piece at the top of the human's residential tower absolutely incredible. I found the film quite difficult to watch and has very little in the way of “happy moments” though, by the end, there is at least a slight sense of triumph (as most American films). I will be most definitely watching the next instalment though many might not be so interested but show a bit of patience to understand the characters and think about what is going on rather than simply taking in the amazing action…you very well might learn something and enjoy it a lot more.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-06-25

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Year: 2014

Length: 130 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films in the 'Planet of the Apes' series:

Other reviewed films by Matt Reeves: