MOVIE REVIEW | Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

“Apes not kill apes”.

Rise of the Plant of the Apes surprised pretty much everyone. From the campy original series, to the terrible Tim Burton attempted reboot at the turn of the century, the Planet of the Apes franchise couldn’t have had less cache than it did three years ago. But against the odds, it turned out to be a great movie, telling a great story, exhibiting some pretty ground breaking motion capture effects that upped the anti from things like The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. The only problem with that kind of unexpected success is, all of a sudden, the inevitable sequel has a lot more pressure on it to be good. A lot higher expectations to live up to. Which is why it’s so impressive that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes exceeds that pressure and those expectations.

Jason Clarke is Malcolm, part of a small group of humans who survived the Simian Flu, which wiped out most of the population a decade earlier. Trekking through the woods outside San Fran Cisco, headed to repair a dam that could restore power to the dilapidated city, they are confronted by one of the super intelligent apes who have been bust building their own community. Realising these chimps are smarter than the average roller skating, cigar smoking, music grinder dancing monkey, Malcolm convinces the human leader (Gary Oldman as Dreyfus) that a peaceful alliance with the apes is the way to go.

Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, is on board with Malcolm’s plan and convinces the apes to let the humans work on the dam. The only problem is, his right hand ape, Toby Kebbell as Koba, has a slightly more antagonistic view of the humans, based on his bad experiences as a test animal in a human lab before the monkey uprising of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This distrust isn’t exclusive to Koba, and soon he has plenty of apes on his side, pushing for all out war as the humans stock pile weapons in their own paranoid fear that makes them not so different form Koba and his followers.

All the talk around Dawn has been about Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell in their motion capture performances as the two main apes. And they are both great, but I think this is more Jason Clarke’s movie. While Serkis and Kebbell have plenty of big moments and excuses to really ham it up, Clarke has to hold his own, while having a lot less at his disposal. His character is more real, more down to earth, more natural. But Clarke makes sure he’s just as compelling when up against these scene stealers.

And Gary Oldman… What’s that guy’s secret? He has looked exactly the same for decades now, but somehow always disappears into each and every character. Technically, he looks almost identical to Commissioner Gordon from the Batman movies, or George Smiley from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, or the baddie from Leon, but he does something unseen and under the surface to transform himself into these amazingly different characters. I have no idea how to explain it, which is why this paragraph is a rambling mess, but however Oldman does it, it’s impressive.

And if none of this has compelled you to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I’ll leave you with this. Monkeys, on horseback, shooting machine guns.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Directed By – Matt Reeves
Written By – Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

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