Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)


A lot can happen in three years.  Back in 2011, Frozen didn’t exist, the Harry Potter and Twilight film franchises were being wrapped up and Bilbo Baggins had yet to leave the Shire.  During the same year, sci-fi franchise Planet of the Apes was given an origin story that swiftly erased the sour memories of Tim Burton’s mediocre 2001 remake.  Now, Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves has taken over the directorial chair from Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt to tackle the much-anticipated sequel.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set ten years after the events in Rise, which sees the so-called simian ‘virus’ practically wipe out human civilisation and the apes, now led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), living in a peaceful community in the mountains.  However, the harmony is broken when a group of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), venture into the mountains while looking for a temporary power source.  Despite their respective wishes for non-violence, the level of distrust between humans and apes soon escalate with both sides fighting for survival.

While Rise of the Planet of the Apes reassured critics that the classic series can bounce back into modern times, Dawn proves that the franchise can continue to deliver in story and substance.  With Reeves bringing in a darker narrative style, assisted by the sight of an apocalyptic San Francisco, the emotional conflict and survival instinct among the characters are more evident the second time round.  Only this time, Dawn is more about the apes themselves, allowing them to take the spotlight from the less-featured human characters.

Having said that, the cast is one-sided in terms of screen time.  Kebbell, Nick Thurston and Karin Konoval make more of an impact in their simian characters while Serkis proves that he is still the king of motion-capture, with his emotive performance of Caesar being the highlight of the feature.   On the flip side, Jason Clarke, Oldman and the underused Keri Russell do not serve much of a purpose besides balance out the human/simian ratio of the ensemble.

The script by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Boback neatly emcompass the social parallels of the human and simian communities, with neither party being shown as the good or bad guy of the piece.  Instead, there is a mutual mistrust and need for survival, which conceals a desire of power between Gary Oldman’s determined Dreyfus and Toby Kebbell’s stubborn, treacherous Koba.  The result is a tense, action-packed finale that paves the way for the 2016 sequel.

The result is a powerful, well-structured yet slightly biased sequel that further justifies the Planet of the Apes reboot or at least the origins of the franchise.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday 24th November.

Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Runtime: 130 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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