Film Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the mouthful-of-a-title sequel to 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, both of which are prequels to 1968’s ‘Planet Of The Apes’. Intelligently made and packing another impressive Andy Serkis motion-capture performance this is 2014’s best blockbuster yet. 

The film was actually very good, with director Rupert Wyatt making excellent use of motion-capture technology combined with the skills of Andy Serkis. It was a blockbuster that wasn’t afraid to not talk down to its audience, and it packed some great action sequences too.

Now, set 10 years after the events of the prequel, ‘Dawn…’ finds Earth ravaged by the Simian flu, with human civilisation collapsed and the human species itself struggling to survive. Meanwhile, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his hyper-evolved apes have gone off into the woods outside San Francisco (as we saw at the end of ‘Rise…’), where they aggressively grunt English, hunt wildlife and just generally live peacefully in their own civilisation, minding their own business. That is until a chance encounter with a group of virus-resistant humans quickly becomes trigger-happy, and tensions between the two factions (Apes vs Humans) skyrocket. Can the two species share the planet peacefully? Well we all know what happens. (SHIT’S GONNA GO BOOM.)

The motion capture work is even better this time around, with two close up shots of Andy Serkis as Caesar in particular, looking truly photo-realistic. All of the CGI apes are terrific, and very watchable. Serkis once again proves why he is the very best at what he does, and his performance here is great.

Also donning the mo-cap suit is Toby Kebbell, playing Koba (Koba was Stalin’s nickname), Caesar’s particularly ugly war-hungry lieutenant. But Koba is not the only one pining after a sloberknocker, as we have Gary Oldman’s Koba-like Dreyfus seeing war as the only answer to humanities problems over in the opposing camp.

Jason Clarke, playing nice-man Malcolm, is similar to Caesar, and the two share a bromance in the middle section of the film. Just like how Koba and Dreyfus are similar, Malcolm and Caesar are too, both being family-orientated, searching for a peaceful solution.

It all leads to (I would say spoiler alert, but, as I said before, we all know how this turns out) a helluvalot of fighting, and the action sequences in ‘Dawn…’ are fantastic. The rotating shot on top of that armoured vehicle  (you’ll know it when you see it), giving us a 360-degree look at the surrounding slaughter and destruction, is utterly divine, with new director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) proving he has some serious action directing chops. Reeves also made the right decision to frame ‘Dawn…’ through the eyes of the apes, which, in a film-landscape where everything is seemingly always seen through the eyes of the human race, is refreshing.

Aside from the main quartet of Caesar, Koba, Malcolm and Dreyfus, the rest of the cast in ‘Dawn…’, be it human or ape, is comparatively side-lined, their characters not fleshed out an ounce. It’s a real struggle to remember the name of any character outside of the main four, with the supporting cast proving to be utterly forgettable. Also, when you look back at 2011’s ‘Rise…’, the CGI now looks quite aged, so it will be interesting to see how the CGI in this film stands up in three years time, considering the rapid pace of improvement in digital technology.

But these minor grievances aside, it’s clear that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the best blockbuster of 2014 (although I haven’t seen Guardians Of The Galaxy yet, so watch this space). It shows that taking an existing franchise and reinventing it can work, and that you can create an intelligent blockbuster that doesn’t have to talk down to an audience, that deals with tough issues and themes such as racism, revolution, apartheid, slavery and war vs. diplomacy. Andy Serkis shines in a film that proves that mass audiences can stomach intelligent scripts, and Reeves also packs in some of the best action sequences seen this year. It’s all great stuff. Go watch it.

Verdict: 8/10

Words: Lucas Fothergill