The previous Planet of the Apes movie ended with the apes escaping across the Golden Gate Bridge as a plague, caused by laughably inept laboratory safety precautions, swept the globe. We re-join the story around ten years later, with human society in ruins and the apes having built a proto society out in the woods.
As you can probably guess the rising apes and the falling humans meet with brutal consequences. The conflict revolves around the hydraulic dam next to the Apes settlement, which the humans need to give power to the ruins they live in. Although the hand of peace is initially reached out by both humans and apes; distrust, misunderstanding and good old fashioned prejudice serve to bring conflict and violence.
It’s strange to write a review and start off praising the technical department, but for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes it has to be done. It may be that in 30 years’ time technology will have moved so far forward that we will look back and laugh at how realistic we found the apes to be, but right now they were flawless. The highest compliment being that not once did the apes take you out of the movie, you just completely accepted that they were real.
The same, sadly, cannot be said for the use of 3D. Sometimes you were just blown away by the cool shots, but there were too many instances where shots were framed in a way specifically to bring your attention to the fact that the film was 3D. These irritate the hell out of me, they completely take you out of the story as your mind immediately goes “ooh, cool 3d”. I don’t want to be thinking “ooh ,cool 3d” when watching a film, I want to be thinking “I hope it works out ok for Caesar the Ape”.
So onto the actual performances. Serkes as the noble Caesar is excellent, although this almost goes without saying for the man who has pioneered this type of acting. Caesar’s interactions with Koba, his angry lieutenant, are some of the highlights of the film. There is one scene in particular, where Koba details how he was experimented on by humans, which is filled with enough genuine intensity and pathos to be spine chilling. Much of the credit in that scene, and indeed for his entire performance, must go to Toby Kebbell. Through his movement and expression Kebbel plays Koba with an unsettling ferocity, while still making it very easy to relate to the damn dirty ape. Another performance to watch out for is Nick Thurston’s as Caesar’s son. This undemonstrative character cannot be an easy one to play, especially in motion capture, but Thurston (alongside the graphics department) make the character stand out at all times.
The human performances, although all good, are slightly overshadowed by the apes. Gary Oldman plays the leader of the human colony. By his own standards the performance was merely competent, with nothing unexpected being brought to the role. However, a competent Gary Oldman is still better than 99.9% of the other actors out there. Jason Clerke playing Malcolm, a family man trying to bring about a peaceful coexistence with the apes, is the stand out of the human cast. His character is put in a tricky situation and acts bravely and honourably without losing his everyman qualities. His son and wife, however, are cloying. The director was presumably trying to emphasize Malcolm’s family man traits, to show a common ground with Ceaser, but we could have lost both of these characters and all we would really lose is some schmaltz and an underdeveloped side plot.
The plot, or rather the decisions which drive the plot, form the basis of my main quibble with the film. It’s certainly what stops it being a 5 star film. Too often what drives the plot is crass, crass stupidity on behalf of the humans. This isn’t a huge issue, and I’m sure most won’t be bothered by it, but sometimes I just wanted to scream at the idiots on screen. This of course could be a little bit of fridge brilliance, as, if you recall, in the original planet of the apes the humans are dumb and stupid. Perhaps the film is suggesting that the survivors of the plague aren’t as untouched by it as they think, and that we are actually watching humanity slowly descend into stupidity. If this is the case, that’s pretty impressive storytelling and I will doff my hat to the writer.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Stranger Views Rating
A solid 4 out of 5 Star film.
If you liked this review then there are lots more movie reviews to enjoy on the Stranger Views site.
If you have decided to watch something on Netflix instead of downloading Planet of the Apes, then here are our Netflix reviews.