Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Director: Matt Reeves.

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Written by: Mark Bomback, (also based on characters created) Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver (based on the book “La Planète des Singes”) Pierre Boulle

Running Time: 130 Mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 17th July 2014

A map of America is etched out with red lines hitting city after city, exploding into smaller red lines while underneath, news reports and shots of VIPs talking about an epidemic are seen. And so we get a small catch up of what happened at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Instead of a full-blown explanation, Matt Reeves’s sequel doesn’t allow those who fell short of not seeing the first film, have the slightest chance of catching up and then we are off, for 130 mins for brilliant set pieces, terrific human drama and a sequel that is better than the original. Michael Bay, take note…this is how to make an epic.

The apes have set up camp in the woodlands just outside San Francisco and live a simple life where the elders teach the youngsters how to read and write, they hunt for reindeer and their leader, the highly intelligent Caesar, wants nothing more than a peaceful existence to bring up his family. Meanwhile, a small group of humans who have survived the simian flu, have entered the woods so they can reach a dam which will give their small city energy. At first, Caesar and his fellow apes want them to stay away but eventually allows them to get to the dam. Underneath all of this, the badly experimented ape, Koba, who has never trusted the humans, wants to start a war and the only way he can do this, is by setting them up and using Caesar as bait.

The first in the reboot of the series, Rise, concentrated on the relationship between James Franco’s scientist and the young Caesar, nicely taking its time before letting the crap hit the fan. Here, director Reeves, who made the brilliant Cloverfield, kick starts you off almost immediately. We know for the fading of the title that we are in for a bigger and more action based movie. With the opening shots of the apes charging down a herd of reindeer, you are instantly amazed at the effects. Every inch of screen is taken up either by ape or deer and you are at the heart of the action. Reeves never let’s go either. He wants it to be big and bold and brassy and he delivers.

Thankfully, it’s not all about the set pieces, although there are plenty of them to impress. Here, like the first film, we have enough time to focus of the human elements and even though the main protagonists are apes, these are more human than more humans are. Caesar knows the importance of family and home. With a new son being delivered and his older one, Bright Eyes, struggling to reach his father’s high standards, the last thing that Caesar wants is a war against the humans, so we have a power struggle with Koba, who still seeks revenge from the way the humans treated him before the epidemic.

Throw into the equation the human camp, with engineer Malcolm having to face his own demons; the lost of his wife to the illness and his own son’s mental shutdown and lack of connection to Malcolm’s new love, Ellie. On top of that his own power struggle with commanding officer, Dreyfus. Malcolm can see that the apes don’t want war and is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, yet Dreyfus has firepower and wants to use it, seeing the apes as threats.

This is far more than your average, throw-everything-at-the-screen blockbuster, this has heart and warmth and wit and intelligence and then, once you feel comfortable with the dramas being played out in front of you, then you are hit full on with some spectacular set pieces and images that will surely become iconic in the near future (the scene of the apes filling the streets of San Francisco while Koba sits proudly on a flag pole flying the Stars and Stripes will definitely be one that stands out).

The performances are all solid from a very strong cast. Nice to see usual supporting player Jason Clarke being given a lead role as the understanding Malcolm, with the always agreeable Keri Russell as Ellie. Gary Oldman shines once more as Dreyfus but once again, it is Andy Serkis’s Caesar who rules the film. Even though he is CGI, Serkis brings a level of humanity and depth, just through the use of body language and eyes. It is remarkable to watch, seeing every emotion played out with nothing more than a look.

Reeves has done a remarkable job, bringing together a blockbuster that is much more than just loud explosions and special effects. He has given us a proper, grown up movie while at the same time, never forgetting that it’s a Summer film. Go see it and be amazed.You’ll never want to see another Transformers film again.

4/5

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