Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo and a little bit of James Franco
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows the world a decade after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The disease spread around the world and was labelled simian flu. While humanity struggled and was decimated by the disease, the apes, led by Caesar (Serkis), have flourished in the woods of San Francisco. But when some humans are looking for a power source to help rebuild civilisation they happen upon the apes, and although Malcolm (Clarke) and Caesar have a mutual respect for each other war between the apes and humans seems inevitable and their friendship may not be strong enough to support the fragile peace they both want.
This film is really good, let’s get that out of the way first. I’m going to start off with a nitpick though. I think they got the titles the wrong way around. This feels much more like a rise than the previous film, but I guess there’s not much they can do about that now.
Anyway, yes the film is awesome. I loved how the Apes were the focus and it wasn’t focusing on the human settlement. The Apes were brilliant and at no point did I ever feel like I was watching animals. They all seemed like actual characters and had real depth and motivations. It strikes the perfect balance, and it’s also very mature in the way it handles both factions. It’s not as though one is wholly evil and one is wholly good, instead there are good people and bad people on both sides and it’s quite a tragic tale as it shows how the humans and apes focus on their differences rather than their similarities, and this leads to fear and hate, which is something that has been prevalent through humanity’s existence. I think the perfect word to sum up the film is ‘solemn’. The stakes are high and the tension is palpable as events rocket out of control.
The story has a wide-ranging conflict between the Apes and the humans, and this is where most of the action comes from, but there’s also a more personal battle between Caesar and Koba (Keller), and let me tell you, you will hate Koba more than any other bad guy in recent times, and yet he’s quite a complex character. I’m not going to go so far as to say that he’s a sympathetic villain, more that he’s an understandable one.
The apes all feel individual and each of them are given even to distinguish them, although in the fight scenes sometimes it is difficult to figure out which ape is which. The human characters aren’t developed as well, but Clarke is a strong representation of the best of humanity, and I liked how they contrasted him with Caesar. But some of the human characters did suffer from this lack of development, like Carver (Acevado), who is an asshole because he’s an asshole. However, I had a recent brush with some wild horses recently so I can understand that panic that sets in when humans see the apes, and how fear is their natural response.
But I’m glad the apes were given focus. This film is going to cement Caesar as one of the best heroic characters in modern cinema, as far as I’m concerned he’s surpassed Optimus Prime as heroic figures. You can tell he’s burdened by what’s going on, and all he wants to do is protect his family but he’s also not afraid to adapt. There are loads of moments that tug at heart strings and it’s just an immense performance by Serkis.
The action sequences are incredible and contain some inventive shots. One that stuck out to me was from the top of a tank; it rotated 360 degrees to give an overview of the whole battlefield.
The great strength here is that it didn’t feel like I was watching a load of CGI-creatures jumping around. All the apes felt distinct and real, and this ensures that all the drama of the film has impact. I can imagine it was quite a risk to have so much focus on the apes, and maybe still some people aren’t too fussed about going to see a film about a bunch of apes but it’s so good and you really should go see it. I’m recommending this highly, although I will give a bit of a warning – I found it very slow to start with and at certain points I was thinking, ‘okay, let’s get things rolling now, come on,’ but man, when it gets going…damn.