Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Review

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

I was fortunate enough to see the original Planet Of The Apes movie on TV as a nipper, thus preserving for me one of cinema’s greatest plot twists ever.

Just one glance at the DVD packaging, other formats are available, and this twist would have been spoiled.

I still vividly remember the ending. That slow reveal. Charlton Heston’s beachside, and apparently improvised, meltdown.

And the chilling absence of music over the closing credits, just the sound of waves crashing.

The various sequels never managed to better it, and Tim Burton’s attempted reboot in 2001 didn’t feel right either, though I still can’t put my finger on why.

The franchise was re-rebooted more successfully in 2011 with Rupert Wyatt’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, from which Matt Reeves’ Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes directly follows.

The latest film opens using the standard news–footage montage device for plot exposition: it transpires that a simian flu has wiped out most of humanity, before bravely following with an opening set piece which focuses on Caesar and his expanded brotherhood of apes. Returning faces include bonobo Koba, chimp Rocket and Maurice the Orang-utan.

It’s therefore quite a while before the first line of non-ape dialogue is spoken, but the film bridges this well through sheer physicality.

A group of surviving humans, searching for access to a dam as a power source, then stumble into Caesar’s territory.

There is an accident with a firearm, causing suspicions and hostility to immediately flare up on both sides.

Small factions of both apes and humans believe in the possibility of living in mutual harmony, but there are enough ominous rumblings to suggest all will not end well.

After all, this isn’t called Truce of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes boasts decent actors like Jason Clarke and veterans like Gary Oldman, but there’s a definite sense that the human performances, not to mention the script, have been ruthlessly side-lined in favour of the simian stars.

Which, you’d imagine, is exactly what the fans want.

The motion capture effects, such a triumph of the previous film, continue to accomplish what all good effects should: make you believe this is real.

In achieving this, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes relies as much on the technology as on the human performances underneath.

Andy Serkis is impressive again as peace-loving democrat and leader Caesar, but it’s Toby Kebbell’s unstable Koba who steals the show with the film’s most engaging character arc; from loyal supporter to burgeoning antagonist.

As you’d expect from the director of Cloverfield, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ set pieces are expertly choreographed and spaced, including several battle sequences and a horseback sequence where Koba out-Scarfaces Pacino in the machine gun stakes.

And, as much as these post-Burton films are about rebooting the franchise, fans of the original films won’t be overly disappointed with musical nods to Jerry Goldsmith’s original 1968 score, and the unfailingly iconic sight of apes riding horses.

Naturally, the latest film ends with the prospect of a ramped-up sequel to come, for which potential titles must surely be running dry by now.

But if Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is anything to go by, another instalment will be very welcome.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2014