Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

The continuation of the franchise that was superbly rebooted with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, this is that rare thing indeed - a Hollywood movie sequel that stands toe to toe with the preceding movie. It is, no pun intended, a slightly different beast, yet it still mixes the same smarts and eye candy that the film before it had in abundance.

About ten years have passed since the events of Rise, and that decade has seen many humans die out from a nasty virus while the apes have grouped together and developed their societal structure to best keep themselves safe in their brave new world. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still the leader, which is all well and good until the camp is unwittingly trespassed upon by a group of human survivors on a recon mission from a nearby base. Led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), the humans are hoping to fix a power system that resides within a large dam. Unfortunately, that large dam resides within the territory of the apes. Malcolm determines to show that humans can be trusted, once he gets over the initial shock of meeting these intelligent apes, and this leads to a fragile truce. Koba (Toby Kebbell) sees the truce as a sign of weakness on the part of Caesar, and hatches his own plan to ensure that apes are kept safe from humans.

Matt Reeves has taken over the directorial duties for this instalment, and he's quick to show that the franchise is in safe hands. An opening sequence, showing the spread of the virus that appeared at the end of the previous movie, gets everyone up to speed before things settle down as we get to see the heirarchy and day to day workings of the ape community. This also allows everyone to adjust to the amount of CGI onscreen, which I have to say feels quite flawless for about 95% of the time. There are wobbly moments here and there, but the computer-generated characters and visuals on display here rank up with the best that I've seen. Reeves complements the CGI work with smooth, and sometimes vertiginous, camerawork, perfect pacing and a nice sense of restraint.

A lot of the good work starts with the script, by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, which takes time to show main characters and dynamics, translating a lot of the ape communication that is in the form of sign language (which means, impressively, that this is a mainstream blockbuster that also forces people to read during quite a few scenes). Every step is taken to ensure that there's a touch of realism at the heart of everything.

Serkis and Kebbell may not be visible onscreen in human guise, but it's their work that should be praised above anyone else. The two men give fantastic physical performances that make their lead characters just as real as anyone else onscreen. Clarke does a great job as the good man who may win Caesar's trust, and he's ably supported by Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-Mcphee. Let's not forget the fact that they were probably acting out most of their scenes alongside actors in motion-capture suits, or even just props that allowed them to maintain eyelines, so the full integration of CGI and non-CGI characters here is testament to the hard work from everyone involved. Judy Greer, Nick Thurston and Karin Konoval also get to monkey around, while Gary Oldman is the other notable human performer (and he's as good as ever).

Smart, touching, often tense, this is a real treat. There are one or two mis-steps, including a disposable human character who may as well just have "stubborn ass" tattooed on his forehead, but if the next movie maintains this level of quality then we may just end up with the greatest ape-centric movie trilogy of all time. Not that there's much competition, mind you, but it will still be a great achievement.


And remember that you can go ape for my e-book. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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