DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014, Chernin Entertainment/ TSG Entertainment, USA, 131 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Atmos/SDDS/Datasat, Cert: 12, Sci-Fi Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗
Starring: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), Keri Russell (Ellie), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), Kirk Acevedo (Carver), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), Terry Notary (Rocket), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Judy Greer (Cornelia), Jon Eyez (Foster), Enrique Murciano (Kemp), Larramie Doc Shaw (Ash), Lee Ross (Grey).
Producer: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Director: Matt Reeves; Writer: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver (Based on Characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Premise suggested by the novel “Planet of the Apes” by Pierre Boulle); Director of Photography: Michael Seresin; Music: Michael Giacchino; Film Editor: William Hoy, Stan Salfas; Production Designer: James Chinlund; Art Director: Naaman Marshall; Set Decorator: Amanda Moss Serino; Costume Designer: Melissa Bruning.
The sequel to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a rousing continuation of the franchise. Ten years after a pandemic disease seen in that film, the apes who have survived are drawn into battle with a group of human survivors who seek to restore power to the city of San Francisco.
The technical achievements of this film are huge, from the brilliantly conceived apes with CGI mapped over the physical performance of real human actors to the excellent design work. Andy Serkis is again excellent at conveying Caesar’s internal conflict and a nod should also go to Toby Kebell who as Koba, the rebellious ape carried forward from the first movie where he was played by Christopher Gordon.
The human actors are headed up by Gary Oldman, the leader of the survivors and Jason Clarke as Malcolm, who acts as the bridge between the ape and human colonies. The drama unfolds around the conflict Caesar feels with doing what’s right for his ape colony and keeping relations with the humans harmonious. Eventually, Koba rebels and, believing he has killed Caesar, leads the apes in an attack on the human colony in a spectacular action sequence which sees the apes take control. However, Caesar has survived and Malcolm helps him restore contact with his son and together they try to put a stop to Koba’s rule.
There are nods to the film’s roots, notably in the character names Blue Eyes (the nickname given to Charlton Heston in the original) and Maurice (the first name of the actor Maurice Evans who played Dr. Zaius in the same 1968 film). The plot resembles that from the fifth film in the original series BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, but at least this time they have the budget.
Whilst there are moments of pure Hollywood in some of the plotting, by the sheer achievement of its ambition in providing intelligent escapist entertainment this is a refreshingly successful addition to the effects-driven blockbusters crowding cinemas. Credit goes to director Matt Reeves for giving the story room to breathe rather than just creating a succession of action scenes. A third film is in development and should be well worth the wait.