A decade after the events of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a group of genetically evolved apes as they have formed a colony of their own on the outskirts of the old San Francisco.
With most humans eradicated by the virus that spread right around the world the Apes now feel completly safe, but they feeling is eroded when a group of humans including Malcolm (Jason Clarke), Ellie (Keri Russell) and Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) venture into the colony in a bid to restore electricity to San Francisco.
Their arrival causes the Apes to wonder about the true intentions of the human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and makes Koba (Toby Kebbell) decide that it is time to question Caesar’s authority due to his closeness to humans.
When you scan over the list of blockbusters due in the cinemas in 2014 Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is probably one that most would skim over. The first film in this re-booted franchise, Rise of The Planet Of The Apes, was a good film but never seemed to quite gain the traction that its producers obviously hoped that it would. But it only takes watching Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes for a few minutes to see that there is something pretty special about this film.
Surprisingly early on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes seems to go against everything that Hollywood wants from a film these days. It’s been long known that American cinema audience have an aversion to subtitles yet here we are with a mega-blockbuster film that opens with discussions between a group of apes which of course have to be portrayed to the audience with only the use of subtitles. It almost seems eerie to be watching these scenes with no humans in sight, but boy as a film lover I loved it.
It almost seems like director Matt Reeves (who has brought as genre classics such as Cloverfield and Let Me In in the past) wants the audience to side with the Apes from Day One, a surprise move but one that is pulled off with absolute brilliance. The fact that it seems that the screenwriters have worked harder on giving characterisation to apes such as Caesar, Koba and Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) rather than to any of the human characters only seems to push this point any further.
In fact that is the biggest weakness of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the lack of characterisation for most of the human characters. One Ape snarls at one point “humans are all the same, how can you tell them apart?” and sadly that is also the case when it comes to the audience trying to separate the human characters portrayed in the film. Some work has been done giving the character of Malcolm some characterisation, he’s caring and lost his wife amid the mayhem a decade earlier but that is about all the audience is told. His son, Alexander and girlfriend Ellie and treated in the same way by the screenplay while Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus almost becomes your stereotypical clichéd bad guy.
As a film Dawn Of The Planet OF The Apes works best when the relationships between the Apes and Humans is first beginning and then tested. This brings an element of suspense and drama to the film and that point the film remains a ‘thinking persons’ film, but that quickly evaporates when the guns come out and the last quarter of this film becomes dangerously close to becoming just another shoot-at-each-other action film. It even has its own sky-high battle on a building site which almost seems to be mandatory in the modern day action film. To be honest it almost feels like this is a film that has been directed in two parts.
Still the early parts of this film is what makes the film so memorable and it also becomes a visual delight for any film fan that likes good CGI. For the most part Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a visual delight, the Apes themselves look eerily realistic, as does their colony, although it does seem like some dodgy last minute CGI work was done especially in some scenes that involve the Apes swinging on the remains of the Golden Gate Bridge. Still that is a very little gripe to have when you consider how good other parts of this look – it seems to even go a step further than anything even Peter Jackson has even done.
This is a film where CGI is the big winner. Often CGI generated characters are hard for the audience to develop feelings for, but here it seems that the audience ends up loving Caesar and co but struggling to identify with some dangerously underwritten human characters. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes does have some weak moments but for the most part it keeps afloat the tradition of most of 2014’s blockbusters being fairly decent films.
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Toby Kebbell
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: 17th July, 2014