Friday, 5 December 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Who would have thought that 46 years after the first Planet of The Apes film that another would come along and be the best of the bunch. Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and it is first and foremost a sequel to 2011’s awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes though, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen the originals. 


The story starts 10 years after the fall of humanity that the events of the previous film caused. Caesar is living in the forest outside of San Francisco where he’s not only set up a colony of apes, but has also raised a family. Conflict arises though when Caesar's son Blue Eyes and his friend Ash come across a human and Ash is wounded. The leader of this group of humans, Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke), tells Caesar that the humans need power, and that they need it from the dam that’s inside the Apes territory. Caesar lets them work but other apes, and other humans, have different plans.  Saying much else would ruin it but it becomes more complicated than simply Apes vs Humans as both sides have individual factions within them. Inside the humans camp, along with the more peaceful Malcolm, is Dreyfus, who is played by Gary Oldman. Dreyfus is arguably the ‘bad’ human as he leads the war against the apes, but he is never presented as being truly bad. And while we still side with Malcolm we do understand why Dreyfus does what he does. The apes side is similarly split. Caesar wants peace and doesn’t want to fight the humans, especially for the sake of his family, while Koba (the scarred ape in the previous film) wants to take over and wipe the humans out.


As is to be expected after the previous film, the special effects in Dawn of the Planet of The Apes are outstanding. These films wouldn’t have been as brilliant as they are even if they were made only 10 years earlier, as the technology really is that important. Andy Serkis’ motion captured performance as the weary Caesar is a particular highlight in the film, as is the work of the other motion captured actors. Pretty soon you’ll forget you’re watching animated monkeys and start thinking they’re real. That’s not too say there’s too many effects shots though; while the apes are CGI a lot of the stunts and action were performed practically. The battle scene where the apes attack the humans on horses is a real standout, with an especially awesome sequence involving a tank. The film isn’t all action though with lots of moments of real heart and gut wrenching emotion that you wouldn’t initially expect of a film centered of talking monkeys. The direction is also incredibly good, with Cloverfield director Matt Reeves doing an even better job than Rise helmer Rupert Wyatt did. The film is directed with all of the class and importance that most Oscar winners fail to achieve, and it really helps the film achieve its grand and epic tone. 


You don’t have to be a fan of the original Planet of the Apes film to enjoy this one, though it would be advisable to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes first. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best blockbusters of the year, it’s also one of the best films. I hesitate to even call it a blockbuster; it is one, it has all of the action that you’d expect but it’s also soooo much more. The film is heartfelt, beautiful, and full of brilliant performances – both animated and real. It’s an easy recommendation for fans of the series or just people looking for a good film, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best of the year.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gets a 5/5.

★★★★★

Tom Bumby


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