Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
UK Release: 17/07/2014
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Gary Oldman
It’s been ten years since the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar now leads his own tribe and Ape-kind is doing well… it’s just a shame the same can’t be said for humanity.
Within mere moments of the film’s opening, it’s revealed that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set after Simian Flu – the retrovirus unleashed in the first film – has decimated the human race. Wiping out billions of people across the globe, it looks as though Caesar’s apes have the world at their feet… that is, until a band of survivor’s stumbles into ape territory.
If you hadn’t guessed, the tone of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is very different to the first film, and that’s no accident. Where ‘Rise’ paved the way for an uprising, ‘Dawn’ seeks to establish Caesar’s apes as the dominant species on Earth. At least, that’s how it looks from the outset. But we all know that Caesar has a soft spot for humans – after all, he was raised by them many years ago. But will that cloud his judgement?
It’s an interesting concept for a sequel to the incredible Rise of the Planet of the Apes and while there’s an overt power-play between the apes and humans – both struggling to survive – it’s not quite as simple as that. Koba, the crazed-looking ape from the first film returns for the sequel… and while he starts out as a close ally to Caesar, it’s clear that their opinions of the humans differ somewhat.
Experimented on by the humans at Gensys, Koba considers the humans to be evil… and when a close-knit band of men turn up on their doorstep asking for help, it’s obvious where this is all heading. Not that it’s a bad thing.
Sure, the motivations are all pretty obvious, and despite some amusing moments when Koba ‘apes’ a circus monkey to infiltrate the human settlement, his nefarious nature is all too clear. It’s perhaps a tad predictable, but Koba has his own ideas on how the humans should be dealt with. Let’s just say he’s not quite as merciful as Caesar.
Of course, Andy Serkis shines throughout… and after an Oscar-worthy performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes he manages to outdo himself with some truly emotional moments. I can’t help but love the growing trust between Caesar and Malcom (played by Jason Clarke) who attempts to broker peace between the apes and humans while fixing a hydroelectric plant which sits within ape territory.
Naturally, the parallels between Malcolm and Will from the first movie are obvious… and with Caesar growing to trust this man, it’s almost like a retelling in reverse of the first movie. Still, it highlights one important aspect – Caesar is not a warmonger. He wants peace with the humans as much as Malcolm… it’s just a shame it doesn’t pan out that way.
Unlike the first movie, there’s plenty of action throughout as we watch the apes ascend from a tribal, spear-hunting culture to a fully-armed and dangerous military power. But beneath the big, sweeping action, it’s the personal relationships we care about the most. Caesar’s journey is obvious… and after leaving humanity behind, he’s manages to establish a new home for all his simian brethren, as well as fathering two sons of his own. But it’s his return to the former San Francisco that’s the most heart-wrenching, especially when he encounters the remnants of his former-life.
But make no mistake – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn’t bogged down by the fact that it’s a sequel. Although it references the events of ‘Rise’ throughout, it still stands on its own two feet. It’s clear that this sequel isn’t merely more of the same, and instead furthers the big, on-going narrative that might eventually lead us to the Planet of the Apes.
Let’s just hope that director Matt Reeves is on board for the inevitable third part of the trilogy.