Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Review:

Wait a second, the Statue of Liberty… That was our planet!

Lads on tour.
Lads on tour.

Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, et al…

Director: Matt Reeves

Runtime: 130 minutes

Plot: Set ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his other Ape survivors find out they are not alone after a global disease was thought to have wiped out the human race – on the flipside, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) discovers a society of Apes living and talking out in the woods. Needless to say, the humans and the Apes clash and do not get along.

The first thing that will strike you about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is its incredible CGI – this is the most impressive use of computer generated imagery I have ever seen. But don’t worry, the film boasts more than just fancy effects; underneath all the fur is a film that moves beyond its humble high-concept origins, a highly evolved beast.

Dat CG.
Dat CG.

Next to the rest of the Summer Blockbusters that were on offer earlier this year, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece, it’s not often we get a Blockbuster that is as smart as it is visceral. We see the film primarily from two viewpoints, Caesar (expertly mo-capped by Andy Serkis) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). It sets up for an interesting dynamic as we see the issues for both the humans and the Apes, both typically revolving around family and trust.

The film would've been better if they didn't add CGI.
The film would’ve been better if they didn’t add CGI.

The film is centred on the concept that the two different “peoples” do not trust each other and relies on the tension remaining underneath at all times. While there are moments within the film where you do not feel the humans are playing much of a role and don’t appear to be in any danger, it is always lurking in the background. This is thanks to the rift in power within the apes, between long-time allies Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Caesar. Neither of them trust the humans (who just want to try and get some power into their dying city), but Caesar is willing to let them try and get the power they need, because he, like Malcolm, cares most for the people he protects.

The degrading relationship between Koba and Caesar is paced well and keeps you motivated in the story, because really, it revolves around Koba – anything interesting anyway. The more minor characters in the film feel either underdeveloped or don’t really add anything beyond an extended runtime. While it is just about enjoyable enough watching an Orangutan bond with a teenager through reading, it ultimately does not add anything noteworthy to the film and to me just acts as padding or trying to make you care for characters that will not mean much in the end.

Gary Oldman however will take the majority of my moaning here. He very much seems to be a marketing gimmick for the film. They must have thought they needed a bigger name to advertise, despite the fact that his role as Dreyfus (the human commander) never fully develops into something worthwhile, I didn’t care that he cried when seeing photos of his family as there was no emotional build up or any kind of backstory to speak of. He was there, he shouted a bit and then we are meant to feel for the guy – I mean, come on.

No one cares Oldman.
No one cares Oldman.

Other than this however my only other complaint about the film would be about its lacklustre set-design, the dystopian world they are in looks dull and uninspired, I’m not sure exactly what else they could have done, so this is not a big complaint at all.

As I said above, there is not a huge amount of interaction between the Apes and the rest of the humans beyond the main cast, but when there is, boy is it good. There are a handful of scenes where the tension and mood is spot on, and these all involve Koba, his character is pitch-perfect and really brings the film to a whole new level whenever he is on screen. It is often said that a super hero is only as good as his enemy – this is also true with Apes.

It is good to see an action film that does not rely on violence (the proliferation thereof), everything done in the film is to stop violence, not encourage it – but this cannot last and when violence does occur it is exciting, gripping and drives the primal feel of the movie home. I have never seen so much life come from CGI creatures and it is in the more violent scenes when the unpredictable, aggressive nature of Apes comes bursting from the screen to attack your senses, Gareth Edwards take note, this is how you do “less is more”.

Summary:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is smart, a technical marvel and aggressive – this is Summer movies done right despite Gary Oldman trying to spoil proceedings. Matt Reeves let out his inner primate, but did not throw poo at the audience; instead, he deserves a banana.

I’m just waiting for Dr. Zaius’ number.

84/100

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