Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Kerri Russell
A Hollywood sequel to a rebooted prequel which is actually good!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens with a lovely sequence which carries on where the first one left off. It shows a virus spreading all over the globe and wiping out the whole human race with a lovely melancholic piano score playing over the top. It’s a nice gentle way to open which is juxtaposed by an extreme close-up of mad monkey, Caesar leading an attack on a bunch of deer. Dawn is one of those rare things to come out of Hollywood. A good sequel. What makes it even more extraordinary is that it’s a sequel for a rebooted franchise which usually spells failure. They could’ve easily made some effects-driven run-of-the-mill action film and have made more than their money back, but they’ve actually delivered good quality stuff with memorable characters and a lot of heart. Some people have expressed a dislike of the film being Monkey-centric, but I actually preferred that. Who’s to say that you can feel emotional for a monkey like you can a human? To be honest, the weakest element of the film is the humans. The human characters play a fairly big role, but they’re just not that interesting. Gary Oldman’s character was probably the most interesting, but he was hardly in it unfortunately. Also, on a side-note. Has it become customary for Gary Oldman to where his commissioner Gordon glasses in every blockbuster he stars in? Gary may lack the distinction of his talented sister, Laila Morse, but he carries a wonderful presence whenever he takes up what little screen time he has. The main family of humans are more annoying though and don’t really develop much as characters. Kodi-Smit Mcphee (vampire boy all grown up) for example, just plods around with a sullen look on his face which is reminiscent of the hormonal Carl in, The Walking Dead. But let’s not get too bogged down in that, because Dawn has far more good points than bad. Caesar has really developed as a character and Andy Serkis (who has made a name for himself in playing angry monkeys) makes him a really compelling character to watch. Whoopi Goldberg has suggested that he should be Oscar nominated, and I wouldn’t disagree with that! Serkis becomes a monkey and it’s seamless to watch. The scenes featuring Caesar’s family are far more moving and emotive than the human’s. His sick wife doesn’t even speak (or should I say, sign?) but you can see the pain behind her eyes, and the way it affects Caesar is beautiful to watch. Koda also makes a fascinating villain. Whilst his character does descend into cartoonish villain clichés, his downward spiral is done in a fairly convincing way.
You can’t write a review for Dawn without mentioning the fantastic special effects. They’re sure to win awards because the amount of detail is just breath-taking to watch. They look like proper apes! Dawn is a very visual film. At the end of the day, in a blockbuster, whilst characters and plot are still important we do also just want to see some explosions. What’s nice about Dawn is that it does put characters and plot before action, so there’s over an hour of build-up before the sugar hits the fan, but that just makes the action all the more effective to watch. The apes storming the human camp on horses, with machine guns, may sound ridiculous but on film it just looks fantastic! In fact, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is directed rather wonderfully. It was clear to see that Matt Reeves was a talented man from Let Me In, which didn’t just plainly rip-off it’s original (although supremely better) text. The action isn’t shot in an annoying way and you can see what’s going on. I especially liked the OTT final ‘boss fight’ which pitches Caesar against Koda in a most spectacular way. There’s a also a lovely 360 degree shot on top of a tank which soaks in the chaos which is happening on-screen. At the end of the day, Dawn is fun. It’s good quality entertainment which you can happily watch more than once. It’s far better and more ambitious than its predecessor, which was good, but felt more like a warm-up for greater things. Dawn is that greater thing and all signs suggest that the third (and hopefully final) segment could be the best yet! Let’s hope that the filmmakers don’t get too greedy and start milking this franchise for all its worth. Also, does anyone else find it slightly insane (but fabulous) that one of the most successful franchises features talking apes? Roll on the sequel, which I predict will be simply called, The Planet of the Apes, which would be awesome, but also confusing. P.S. I’ve just realised that I’ve called ‘Koba’, ‘Koda’ throughout this review. I am sorry, but it’s a stupid name anyway.