Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Poster

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Poster


Director: Matt Reeves

Writer:  Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver with Mark Bomback

Starring: Gary Oldman , Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Toby Kebbell, Kirk Acevedo, Judy Greer


Click HERE to read my review of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES


Koba“Caesar loves humans more than apes!”


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is that fraking rare example of a sequel that climbs to the highest, hard to reach branch exceeding an expectation raising predecessor.

Compelling science fiction masquerading as spectacular popcorn entertainment, the predetermined consequences of the established mythology carry a cinematic gravitas that devastates emotions and stimulates contemplation. Inevitable tragedy is in mind as looming conflict is delivered with a deft hand at narrative. Each new scene captivates as we hurtle towards the impending conquest where man will no longer serve as Earth’s overlord.

Rick Jaffa- “The intention was to make a science-fact movie as opposed to a purely science fiction movie. What elements of the world today can we line up so that if the dominoes were to tip over just right, Colonel Taylor (Charlton Heston) would wind up on that beach in the year 3900 — or whatever it was. We do know where it ends up, so the fun we want to have is what happens between now and then.” – Hollywood Reporter interview

This is a thoughtful and provocative continuation of the rebooted Apes saga confidently told by Director Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD, LET ME IN). The film is determined to let you appreciate the desperation of a delicately balanced but dominant species on the brink of extinction and a fast evolving but clashing society at a crossroads in its challenge for survival. The rationed dialogue explores loaded ideas. Long stretches of verbal free communication develop character and larger plot sometimes simultaneously.

Picking up a decade after the apocalyptic viral outbreak of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, the Simian Flu has now wiped out most of the global population. Taking a page from Pierre Boulle’s source novel we first meet the apes as a primitive village. Hunting as a strategic pack, living off the land as a collective, there is an idyllic purity to the primal hierarchy that has placed Ceasar as alpha-leader.

Wisely spending the time, it’s only once we have assimilated to the clandestine habitat that local homosapiens are revealed in the forest. Single parent Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is in-charge of a small expedition that includes girlfriend Ellie (Kerri Russel) and his son Alexander (Kod Smit-McPhee). A disconnected family looking to fulfill a larger purpose for their San Francisco based compound. The lone outpost populated by a potpourri of inhabitants has exhausted fuel supplies and now needs the hydro electrics of a nearby dam located in Caesar’s territory.

Bleak and compelling the screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (THE RELIC, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) & Mark Bomback (THE WOLVERINE) manages to weave a visual tale where all the primary character motivations are empathized. Each reality dictated by a truth of personal experience that explains behavior in both human and simian. There is compassion that mirror’s commentary, the beast within man and the man within beast is malleable enough to examine deeper themes beneath the surface while not preaching.

The order of reveals ensures emotional and philosophical punch, like seeing what could have been when a young ape’s curiosity leads to a tender moment that’s shattered by volatile differences. The shared knowledge as Alex teaches Maurice to read buffered against invasion.

dawn-planet-apesThe cinematography of veteran Michael Seesin (ANGEL HEART, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS) so evocatively framed as to almost feel instantly iconic. Certain images sear into the retina, an ape surveying humans taken prisoner while the American flag flies below him, the HEARTS OF DARKNESS/KING KONG recall as Malcolm surrenders, surrounded by apes and of course Koba upon a horse shooting duel machine guns as fire blazes all around. There is a genuine power to some of the striking visuals and it is all lifted by the fatalistic scoring of Michael Giacchino (JOHN CARTER/UP)

The grounded realism is all the more convincing thanks to the players. Andy Serkis’ diplomatic Ceasar and Toby Kebbel’s (ROCK’N’ROLLA) adversarial Koba communicate the language of dominance and submission with clear, authentic gestures ranging from subtle to demonstrative. Displaying truly exceptional skills of mimicking pantomime, the extremities of the performances allows an intimacy to grow the longer we observe the interactions of all the elite motion captured cast. All doubts removed, to dismiss the craftsmanship as “illegitimate” is plain stubbornness at this point.

Jason Clarke (LAWLESS) continues to quietly convince. His ability to bring menace to a role like the interrogation in ZERO DARK THIRTY is counterbalanced by a vulnerability few movie stars will ever show. A pivotal scene where his life is spared when the stakes of his actions are at their highest has relief expressed in shadowed tears and nothing more. As Malcolm he brings a combination of James Franco’s expressionism and Aidan Quinn’s intensity.

Gary Oldman (LEON: THE PROFFESIONAL), Kodi Smit-McPhee (THE ROAD), Kirk Acevedo (OZ) and Keri Russell (WAITRES) all use their time onscreen to make sure the secondary characters are fully formed.

This is a summer blockbuster that defies the limitations of a big budget CG fest to become something far larger and more satisfying. As a lifelong PLANET OF THE APES fan I can confidently say this is my favourite in the series after the 1968 original. I eagerly await the next installment as the makers promise to slowly reveal how the Statue of Liberty ends up buried in the sand.


Click HERE to read my review of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Read the complete Hollywood Reporter article HERE




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