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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Review

July 17, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which rebooted the decades old franchise with new purpose and attention. Like its predecessor Dawn of the Planet of the Apes grabs the audience by surprise, captivates their attention and impresses not only by its visuals but also its profound albeit simplistic story.

It’s been 10 years since events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The Siamese ALZ-113 virus has killed most of human population and driven those remaining into small congregations. Cesar (Andy Serkis) and his fellow apes have taken residence at a forest close to San Francisco, where their life has prospered. Led by Cesar, who now has a family, they are more intelligent and more organised than ever. All is well until one fateful day an ape gets shot by humans, who are on a mission to restore power to their domicile. In a clash of survival, tensions grow and situations escalate, resulting in a wholly entertaining blockbuster.

The first part of the reboot wowed audiences around the globe with WETA Digital’s groundbreaking motion capture technology and visual effects. Unlike previous instalments in the franchise, the 2011 version introduced apes as pure CGI creations, which surely contributed to its success, as let’s face it: people don’t want to see puppets in films anymore. Robbed from its Academy Award for Visual Effects, that is surely an error that won’t repeat itself.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks breathtaking. The CGI pushes boundaries and in the process makes the predecessor look absolutely primal. The apes look wonderful and oft-times are interchangeable from live action. In fact, for most of the film you very well might forget you are watching a film with predominantly fabricated imagery. Matt Reeves must be aware of the goldmine his team has accomplished; he relishes with complex animations, individual close-ups and stunning vistas.

As good as the visual effects are, they would be nothing without Andy Serkis and his fellow ape actors such as Toby Kebbell (Koba), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes) and Judy Greer (Cornelia). Motion capture has become the new norm in contemporary filmmaking, which is why it is ridiculous that the actors seldom receive praise for their work. Andy Serkis is a revelation and continues to outperform himself, and to bring astounding emotional depths into his characters. A testament to the actors’ performances and Michael Giacchino’s brilliant pulse-raising score is the first 30 minutes of the film, which constitutes mostly of grunts and sign language.

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Cesar is in centre stage this time around – and deservedly so. The tribal interactions and hierarchal disputes with the apes are exceptionally fleshed out, leaving the humans in shame. In fact, the humans’ storyline is the weakest part of the film. Since they play a supporting role for the apes, they never get enough time or material for much complexity. This leads to a fair amount of exposition, genre tropes and irrational actions (namely by Gary Oldman’s character). However, this problem quickly dissipates as the focus shifts back to the apes and Cesar’s interactions with Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and to a lesser extent Ellie (Keri Russell), who strangely remains a statist much throughout the film – because she is a woman?

There is much to love in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: its visuals, a brilliant score, and a dynamic story. Building upon the success from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn does not disappoint. It exceeds all expectations and delivers one of the most entertaining films of the summer.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is out in UK cinemas

Sean Ryan