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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised many with its imaginative reboot of ’60s classic Planet of the Apes then Matt Reeves’ sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes maintains those high standards.

A follow-up that marries the visual spectacle required of a summer blockbuster with a story that’s both intelligent and emotionally involving, this is big budget filmmaking of the highest calibre.

Set 10 winters after the events of Rupert Wyatt’s first film as mankind has dwindled in a post-virus world and apes have thrived, the film picks up as simian leader Caesar (portrayed by Andy Serkis) has established a commune for his siminal companions that is living peacefully in the woods outside of San Francisco.

However, their tranquility is threatened by the sudden arrival of a group of surviving humans – led by Jason Clarke’s mild-mannered family man Malcolm – who are looking for a vital energy source in the woods to power their community back in the city.

However, when the first meeting between man and ape ends violently, the peace that is subsequently struck up between them remains uneasy as Caesar agrees to let them have the access they require, fully aware (like Malcolm) that there are parties on both sides who would prefer nothing more than to go to war to establish one species’ dominance once and for all. It’s left to Caesar and Malcolm to work together to keep the peace and – in doing so – to protect their respective families.

Reeves, whose past work has included Cloverfield and Let Me In, has crafted a blockbuster that works on a big scale but which also has a complexity not commonly found in films of this nature.

The conflict between man and ape is allegorical, highlighting current events and thinking while having plenty to say about humanity’s shortcomings in terms of how it deals with conflict, prejudice and a lot more besides.

In doing so, it sets up Caesar as an almost Mandela-like figure of peace – someone who has never lost sight of mankind’s capacity for good (as reflected in his memories of his time with James Franco’s character in the original), as well as his capacity for evil. But he is also aware of the cost of violence and strives throughout to avoid needless loss of life.

Portraying him, once again, is Serkis using performance capture and it’s another riveting portrayal from this master of the medium – layered, thought-provoking, endearing and emotionally compelling. It’s little wonder the clamour to see Serkis recognised with some kind of acting award has started afresh.

But there’s equally notable support from the film’s excellent ensemble support, whether from Toby Kebbell’s rebellious ape Koba (who is distrustful and sceptical of any notion of mankind’s ability to be trusted), Jason Clarke’s equally noble Malcolm (stepping up to a leading role in commanding style) and Gary Oldman’s fearful community leader.

Put together with the still impressive special effects (the battle sequences, in particular, deliver plenty of visual eye candy of marauding apes on horse-back) and the film’s ability to make you genuinely care about what is occurring (while pulling you emotionally this way and that), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proves that mainstream cinema can still deliver a variety of riches.

It is another hugely impressive achievement for this rebooted franchise that deserves to be hailed as an instant classic.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: July 17, 2014

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