Film Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn]Directed by Matt Reeves

Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke & Toby Kebbell

Back in 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes proved itself a cut above the average summer blockbuster nonsense with a surprisingly poignant tone, well rounded characters and, of course, impressively realistic and expressive effects. It was far from flawless but it had some memorable moments and firmly set the foundations for a franchise to build upon. Three years later in the real world and ten years later in the movie world we arrive at another mouthful of a title Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where our primate protagonist Caesar (Serkis) is the head of a sizable ape family in a world that has been left ravaged by the human race. There’s a small colony of human survivors living in the aftermath of Generic-Apocalyptic-Movie-Disease and when they make contact with Caesar’s hostile brethren tensions arise and all out hellish carnage eventually ensues.

 

 

 

Fans of the first film (of which there are many) will find a lot to like here. Dawn builds on Rise delivering a sequel that is bigger, louder and longer than its predecessor. The action is brutal and really pushes its 12A certificate to the absolute limit and there’s some striking visual wizardry on display. Serkis brings the mo-cap goods yet again with a wonderful nuanced performance that fleshes out Caesar and renders him a multi-faceted central character. The real star of the show though is Toby Kebbel who is absolutely riveting as the menacing traitor Koba and is responsible for several of the film’s best moments.  Sadly the human characters are nothing like as well-realised as the apes. Jason Clarke who has been intense in previous roles (see Zero Dark Thirty) gives a slightly watery-eyed performance as the ape-sympathising father Malcolm and Gary Oldman cruises on autopilot in an underdeveloped antagonist role.

If you’ve seen the trailer, which is likely if you’ve visited the cinema in the past month, you’ve essentially seen a cut down version of the film itself. This isn’t much more than a drawn out showdown betwixt man and monkey and this leaves much to be desired in the story department. The introduction takes its time to go through the motions and the direction it heads in feels predictable and formulaic at times. But what it lacks in surprises it makes up for in spectacle and there are moments here which are bordering on spectacular despite the obsolete 3D. The action is also nicely complemented with a pleasantly old-school score from Michael Giacchino which feels jarring to begin with,with its plinky-plonky urgency, but only because we’ve become so accustomed to Hans Zimmer-esque monotony. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t leave us with much to ponder over other than what the next long-winded title will be. But it’s a solid, workmanlike summer sequel that represents an evolution in technology, but not necessarily in storytelling.

3.5/5

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