Review: Dawn of The Planet of the Apes


The latest installment in the Planet of the Apes franchise is not exceptionally original, but is worth the ticket price to marvel at motion capture performance pushed beyond it’s limits, says Jane Casey


Set 10 years after Caesar led the simian uprising, the alpha ape, his fellow former lab dwellers and a new generation of primates are thriving in the Muir Woods outside of San Francisco. Unbeknownst to the super advanced, genetically evolved apes, not too far away one of the last remaining human colonies is living in squalor after most of the world’s human population were wiped out by a highly contagious strain of the simian flu.

When both species are alerted to the other’s existence, it’s up to Caesar and a human leader Malcolm – who is one of the few humans not to hold a grudge against the apes – to stop war breaking out while also preventing an uprising within the ape society.

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-stills-and-plot-detailsWhile I was never a huge fan of the POTA franchise, particularly Tim Burton’s (very Burton-esque) 2001 adaptation, this film makes you forget about the failed reboot and is even superior to 2011’s critically acclaimed Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The story is dragged out with an unnecessarily long two hour plus running time, however there is enough action to keep the audience constantly engaged and enough heart to keep the film from turning into a one-dimensional explosion fest à la Michael Bay.

The plot is littered with stock characters, so much so that you can predict the rest of the story after the first 10 minutes. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. The film almost mimics a Shakespearian drama – clearly taking inspiration from Hamlet and Othello. But hey, it worked for The Lion King, right?

The true merit in the film lies in Andy Serkis pushing the limits of motion capture performance in his role of the ever layered protagonist Caesar, and setting a whole new standard in the genre. While the medium is still very much in its infancy, the actor known for bringing Gollum to life in Lord of the Rings is a master of the art and conveys every subtle movement and facial nuance flawlessly.  Truly the star of the film, Serkis brings Caesar to life in every way, from being a doting father to a vicious alpha ape.

Director Matt Reeves’ treatment of this modern sci-fi thriller is to be commended for its authenticity, making you believe throughout the two hours that this scenario is not only possible, but that you are living in this apocalyptic battle for survival.

Left on a cliff edge by it’s last scene, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Caesar, his band of primates and the human race.


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