DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
I really enjoyed Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, it was an inventive way to reboot the series by going back to the very beginning and re-inventing it from there. It was well acted, solidly directed and gave the series a good start with plenty of material to be covered before the films even progressed to what we saw in the original classics. The movie was a critical and box-office success and thus the series is being continued.
The sequel picks up 10 years after the virus, that began in Rise, has decimated a massive amount of the human population. The apes, led by Caesar, (Andy Serkis) have started a community deep in the California wilderness where they are living a relatively peaceful existence and have seen no humans for years… until now. A small band of humans led by a man named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) happens upon the apes territory and after an accidental wounding of one of the apes, are sent fleeing. The apes follow them back to San Francisco where they find a human colony still exists and one that is well armed. Caesar goes there with an army as a warning to the humans to stay away from the apes’ home. But, Malcolm begs Caesar to allow the humans to work at dam nearby their village, to restore electricity to the human colony which is running out of fuel. Caesar agrees in an effort to promote peace but, as Malcolm and the ape leader form a fragile alliance, fear on the human side and hatred on the other side in the form of an ape named Koba (Toby Kebbell), threaten to not only end that peace but, elicit all out war.
Sequel is this time directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves who does a great job of creating a film that is it’s own movie yet, still fits in with the previous chapter. Reeves gives the film some very strong dramatic weight while not skimping on the action or suspense and it has a really effective look of a world where nature has grown over cities formally populated by people. The script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver takes it’s time to establish the characters, especially all the new human ones, and where the world stands at this time. It also achieves this as the story moves forward and thus we get the information we need as part of that story and the film never needs to stop for exposition. A lot is achieved in it’s 130 minute running time and the film has a brisk pace and yet, covers all the ground it needs to. The action, when it comes, is exciting and very well staged and carries a lot of impact’ as well as, an epic scale. The gunfire, chases and explosions also serve the story and is never overindulgent for the sake of satisfying the Summer movie crowd. This is an intelligently written movie that also vastly entertains and should satisfy both the popcorn movie audience and those looking for a little more substance in their movie. The SPFX are flawless, for the most part and the film is wrapped in a very effective score by Michael Giacchino that evoked some of the music from the classic Apes series of the 70s. In fact the film’s story has some nice echoes of those classic 70s flicks too that will be obvious, but not obtrusive, to fans of the original series.
Also serving the story and supporting Reeves excellent direction is a great cast. Serkis’ motion capture acting for Caesar is fantastic and he gives the simian star a very emotionally expressive face and body language that really creates a three dimensional character from the CGI. The same goes for most of the ape performance actors with Kebbell’s Koba also being strongly portrayed. Clarke makes a noble character in his Malcolm. He really wants what’s best for everyone and his pain when conflict arises seems genuine and it is understandable that he and Caesar would bond. Gary Oldman is strong as the head of the human colony, a man named Dreyfus. His leader wants what’s best for his people even if it brings war but, he is never portrayed as a villain. It’s about the survival of the human race and Oldman conveys that the man’s harsh decisions are not from hate as much as simply willing to take what his people need to live. Keri Russell plays a former CDC nurse and part of Malcolm’s team who is a sympathetic and strong woman and one who has her inner pain too. She gives the character a nice dimensionality despite not really being all that major a part when all is said and done. The rest of the supporting cast are equally good and really add the final piece to making this a smart and highly enjoyable film.
So, a first rate sequel to a first rate reboot and a really enjoyable and entertaining movie. The script is intelligent yet, still weaves in plenty of action and it’s all brought together by a really well done directing job from Matt Reeves. When all is said and done, probably the best movie I have seen so far this summer.
3 and 1/2 Caesars.