10 years after the somewhat disappointing Tim Burton reboot of the Planet of the Apes film we get the game-changing and brilliant Rise of the Planet of the Apes from Rupert Wyatt. Well, this year, a sequel to it is swinging in and, despite stereotypical hate for sequels, this is bigger and a whole lot better than anything we've seen before and I'm not monkeying around.
2011's Rise was an exceptional film and came as somewhat of a surprise, ridding us of the bad taste left by Burton's re-imagining of the original. The big question now, though, was whether or not a follow-up could live up to the first movie's high standards. With Wyatt departing from the blossoming franchise, the new director had some big responsibilities and had the pressure of making a film just as good, if not even better, than Rise.
Cloverfield's Matt Reeves stepped up and ever since, I have been really excited for Dawn. If you cast your mind back then you'll remember Rise's post-credit sequence which showed the simian flu, caused by the ALZ-113, spreading around the world! Well, Dawn is a result of it. After seeing the first couple of trailers, it looked promising. I confidently predicted that it would be a high-point for the Summer's box-office and Reeves' sequel didn't let me down. It's a film that is as rich and beautiful narratively as it is aesthetically and it lives up to the expectations everyone expects from a Planet of the Apes film.
The film begins 10 winters after Rise where mankind is now wiped out (by the ALZ-113 virus) and greater San Francisco has all but disappeared with nature now dominating, reaching out and choking billboards, gas stations etc. But, this being said, Earth isn't a burning husk of forgotten dreams as where humans plunder, apes rise or, in this case, dawn.
The intelligent, sign-using primates are all huddled together near the destroyed city, in the woods, where they are teaching their young to hunt and fight and so on. Andy Serkis' Caesar is now leading the apes, as their king. He also has his own growing dynasty with 2 children of his own.
A surprise comes to the apes when humans stumble across their land and threaten their peaceful existence. But, remembering a time when humans were kind, the cogent leader spares the people and lets them live (after all, he was raised by them). Jason Clarke's ALZ-113 surviving Malcolm, like Caesar, doesn't want any conflict, just peace between humans and apes - in order to restore power to the area where the humans are setup - and the two form an unexpected, frail truce for the benefit of their species.
However, distrust ripples amongst both sides as old memories catch up with human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), whose loss and ruin to the ALZ suggests no forgiveness towards the dominating creatures, and Toby Kebbell's Koba with his scars, from a lifetime of playing as mankind's slave, that suggest a darker history and encounter with man for the fiesty beast. Koba and Dreyfus' hatred and desire for vengeance upon the opposing kind soon threatens the amity between the humans and the apes and results in only one thing; war.
It's through this echoing that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes thrives. You are just too wrapped up in all the emotion and the tension to worry about anything else. Reeves demands your attention and whilst WETA's stunning effects (improved massively over three years) blow you away, it is the characters, especially the apes, that so captivate.
With Rise, the humans had more of a central role than the monkeys but in Dawn, the apes are at the front, all eyes are on them. They are outstanding! Not only are their actor counterparts glorious in bringing these beasts to life but they look so realistic and alive that you forget that these apes are just actors in mo-cap suits because of the immense detail that we see in them, giving them life. Also, the forests and the dust scattered San Francisco are ACTUALLY there! Unlike Rise's CGI worlds, Reeves places his actors in physical landscapes and seeing them being there just makes the whole thing even better.
The film belongs to these primates but the older, wiser Caesar is the one that shines from the rest. Praise goes to Serkis for what is yet another magnificent performance. He pours heartfelt emotion and acting into this role to deliver a meticulous performance that is breathtaking to watch. When we look into Caesar's eyes we can feel his pain, his weariness and we feel genuine empathy towards him.
Serkis has some standout support too from Kebbell as Koba. The beginning of the film sees him as one of the boys, part of the gang, like everyone else. It's only upon seeing humans that he is reminded of his daunting past, like he looked in a mirror and saw his scars again. It's this trip down memory lane that fills him with his long lost ravenous hatred towards our kind. Koba's role, ramped up from Rise, demanded ace acting and that's exactly what we got from Kebbell, who delivers menace and empathy beautifully. He's one the best villians you'll ever see. You look at him and you don't see an actor in a skin-tight suit, but a broken and lost ape.
The pair's relationship is so moving, almost heartbreaking, and Serkis and Kebbell's double-act alone is worth going to see and will definitely make history for this film.
Again, it's not the CG that makes the apes so remarkable. It's the script that makes them so immersive. They each have such complex personalities that it's hard not to emotionally connect to them. Their every move is so defined, so precise. The humans are great and support the apes really well, making the struggle more believable.
This is literally one of the best sequels to ever release and is easily one of the best films I have seen. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this film will have you on edge from start to finish. There's nothing wrong with this movie plus apes on horses, with guns! It's clear that, with Reeves, this franchise is in good hands. Bring on Planet of the Apes 3.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is cinema at its finest. It's a groundbreaking masterpiece that is not only packed with both action and emotion but is also visually stunning. Apes, together, strong.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.