Film review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(M) ****

Director: Matt Reeves.

Cast: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer.

ONE of the biggest cinematicsurprises in recent years was Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes – another unwanted reboot/reimagining/prequel that turned out to be one of the best films of 2011.

So here’s the sequel to that movie no one wantedand – surprise, surprise – it’s also really good.

While not as tautly scripted as its predecessor, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (known as DOTPOTA from here on in) is another great balance of emotional punch, great characters (all apes), and action thrills.

Eight years after chief chimp Caesar (Serkis) led his fellow chemically enhanced apes to freedom across the Golden Gate Bridge, the world is a very different place. A virus has wiped out much of humanity, with the survivors eking out an existence in small communities, such as one in San Francisco.

At the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Caesar’s colony is thriving, unaware any humans remain alive.

However a run-in between Caesar’s forces and a small group of human survivors led byMalcolm (Clarke) sets in motion a chain of events that will lead the two species to either mutually beneficialpeace or bloodywar.

DOTPOTA pulls a few of the same tricks as its predecessor (which we will call ROTPOTA), but it’s a very different film.Its misty forest and dark broken city settings give a suitably ape-ocalyptic (sorry) vibe to proceedings that’s a starkcontrast to the warm homely tonesand bright clinical labs ofthe first film.

This is also very much the apes’ film. Whereas Caesar (a combination of Serkis’ motion-captured performance and some CG wizardry) and hissimian sidekicksstole the show last time, this time theyown the show.

Theinterplay and relationships between Caesar, the tortured human-hatingbonoboKoba (Kebbell), the wise Bornean orangutan Maurice (Konoval), and Caesar’s son Blue Eyes (Thurston) are far more fascinating than thoseof the humans. While Clarke gets a lot to do as a sort-of go-between for the humans and the apes, Oldman does little but givevaguely rousing speeches and mourn for the past and Russell is a plot device disguised as a doctor.

This doesn’t matter though becausethe apes are the reason to watch. They are wonderfully realised charactersbuiltfrom nuanced performances (particularly from Serkis and Kebbell) and some near flawless special effects.

The moral questions raised, the themes of trust and power, and the emotional moments are no less effectivefor being provided by a cast of CG primates.

As with ROTPOTA, DOTPOTA (yep, it’s ridiculous but stick with me here)takes usto a destination we’re expecting – a planet of, well, apes – but does so in an unexpected manner. It’s this that helped make the first one so enjoyable and intriguing and the feat isimpressive once again here.

Whilethe humans are the weakest link, the apes more than make up for it, creating asequel that’s well worth watching.

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