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Movie Reviews

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes





Released: 17th July 2014

Directed By: Matt Reeves

Starring: Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Andy Serkis

Certificate: 12A

Reviewed By: Lucy Haig

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set a decade after we watched James Franco’s Will Rodman, Caesar’s Human adoptive father, leave him and his new family to live in peace outside San Francisco. In that time, the side effects of the Alzheimer’s drug that Rodman was developing, dubbed the Simian Flu, have ravaged the Human race with only a few pockets of the genetically immune left on Earth. When a party from the San Francisco colony stumble across the home of Caesar and his now much larger, much more advanced Ape family, fear on both sides leads to an epic stand-off on the city’s crumbling streets.

The desperation to restore power to the Human city through a dam in the Ape territory leads Jason Clarke’s Malcom to reach out to Caesar in the hope that a peace can be struck allowing them to live in harmony. There are opponents on each side, Malcom’s close friend and leader of the human settlement, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), and Caesar’s second in command, Koba (Toby Kebbell), who long suffered at the hands of humans, both have concerns about the existence of the other and their continued opposition to their more rational counterparts leave death and chaos in their wake.

Andy Serkis shows once again here why he is the undisputed King of Motion Capture. From the second we first see Caesar’s war-painted face through to the last moments of grim determination as he gears up for the most difficult days his Apes will face, Caesar is a work of art. Serkis is present in every gesture, every facial expression and every thought but still Caesar is his own entity, an individual neither quite CGI nor quite real, and the performance given by Serkis is so good it is not too much of a stretch to believe we could see him strolling down the red carpet next to his human counterpart at any moment.

The rest of the cast, both Ape and Human, are engaging, well rounded characters who represent the best and worst of society. Maurice, the Orangutan (Karin Konoval) and Malcom’s son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) embody the best beautifully and when Alexander’s love of reading and Maurice’s thirst for knowledge collide it provides an excellent contrast to the violence and hatred to follow. Koba is the perfect villain for this piece. His horrific past blinds him against the possibility that Humans could be allies and his uncontrollable hatred turns him against those he once cared for the most.

The plot is strong throughout and the length of the film barely noticeable as it is very well paced but this is not the summer blockbuster many will be expecting. Dawn is a statement designed to make the audience uncomfortable and question our place in this world and our current behaviours. The Humans are, with few exceptions, brutal, aggressive and entirely responsible for their own demise and when compared to Caesar’s Ape family in their peaceful environment untouched by human faults, it is easy to see which is the weaker of the two species – a suggestion many will struggle to stomach. The most difficult moments to watch are those where bonding between Man and Ape towards a positive future is stripped away by hatred in the harshest ways.

In light of the current wars being waged based on our perceived differences, it is easy to see that now is the perfect time for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to strike a chord. To strip back and view ourselves as a singular species rather than black, white, rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, this religion or that is the most obviously simple thing, yet it is also the most difficult. The cold harsh truth that this film brings to light is that for all of us, no matter how hard we try, in our darkest moments we are Koba and that this, if Apes ever rise or not, is our future and it’s probably closer than we think.


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