Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes review

Review Ryan Lambie 1 Jul 2014 - 09:24

Could Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes be the best film of the summer? Without a doubt, Ryan writes...

In a mainstream filmmaking climate where safe bets are chosen over risks seemingly every time, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes stands as a stark, thrilling anomaly: a multi-million dollar tragedy that is as brilliantly told as it is visually striking. Simply put, this movie shouldn’t exist.

A decade after a deadly, laboratory-grown ‘simian flu’ has swept across the planet, humanity has fallen from its perch. As the opening credits glide by, the fate of our species is summed up in a single line: “Most of us were killed by the disease. The rest were killed in the fighting.”

On the outskirts of San Francisco, the pandemic’s epicentre, a new breed of genetically-modified ape rules the wilderness, led by Caesar - the smart, noble flashpoint for the previous film’s events. Caesar now has a wife and son, and he and his fellow apes have managed to build up a secure, peaceful society among the rocks and trees. But one day, Caesar and his tribe discover that a group of surviving humans still exists in the ruins of San Francisco. One human, Malcolm (Jason Clarke), emerges as a representative for his fellow survivors, and Caesar hopes to build a bond of trust between the two species. Inevitably, bloodthirsty forces on both sides of the human-ape divide conspire to throw the uneasy alliance into chaos.

From the opening shot, in which apes hunt deer through lush forests, Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves (taking over from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Rupert Wyatt) builds up an air of not only realism, but unusual tension. Even as we’re given a tour of the apes’ idyllic community, where we see the gentle orangutan Maurice teaching young apes how to read and write, there’s a sense of foreboding and unease. The scale Reeves and his army of visual effects artists at Weta have achieved here is exceptional, both in terms of the apes’ realism and the imagination present in every shot. But what’s more important is not merely the quality of the visual effects themselves, but how effectively they’re used to tell Dawn’s story.

Case in point: Andy Serkis’ startling performance as Caesar. It’s easy to forget that what we’re seeing is a processed version of actor Serkis, his movements and expressions captured on a computer and then used to create the super-intelligent leader of the apes - the strength of both the effects and Serkis’ performance is such that the artistry becomes almost invisible. Caesar’s turbulent history can be read in his limpid, world-weary eyes; the few words he speaks come from deep down in his chest, as though every syllable is conjured up through sheer force of will.

Where so many expensive movies attempt to entertain with a complex plot or through sheer stylistic aggression, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes relies instead on dramatic weight. Between them, writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback have come up with a simple story of two species on a collision course, and that collision is all the more inevitable because of the emotional similarities between ape and human. Among the apes, there is fear and resentment of the humans who once dominated them - fears easily whipped up by the duplicitous Koba (Toby Kebbell), whose hatred towards homo sapiens is longstanding and subtly described. Among the humans, there’s Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who sees the apes as mere animals who ought to be swept aside for the safety of his own species.

Reeves deepens the drama further by showing the goodness both sides share: their desire to protect their loved ones; Malcolm and Caesar’s desperation to avoid conflict at any cost. Eventually, however, the floodgates open, and the violence of the film’s second half is all the more gut-wrenching thanks to the surety of the build-up.

With Michael Giacchino’s thunderous score as the backwash, Dawn builds to an intense final third, as old grudges come spilling out and plans begin to unravel. The naturalism of Michael Seresin’s subtly-lit and framed cinematography pays off here, as scenes which could have been the stuff of B-movie goofiness instead play out with extraordinary force. Without drifting into spoiler territory, we can safely say that Kobal emerges as one of the most cunning and downright intimidating screen villains of the year so far.

Dawn is perhaps one of the most satisfying sequels since Aliens, in that it is both a continuation of the previous film and a comprehensive escalation of it. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was effective as a tender drama and a prison-break thriller. Dawn expands the canvas still further, creating the kind of primal sci-fi war movie that probably wouldn’t have even been possible a decade or so ago. As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Dawn dares to deal with the topic of war truthfully; it shows how easily the balance of peace can spin out of control, and how devastating the results can be.

As a summer film, Dawn is difficult to fault. Its performances, from Jason Clarke via Keri Russell (who plays Malcolm's wife), to Gary Oldman and the actors behind the apes (among them Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Doc Shaw and Judy Greer as well as Serkis and Kebbell) are uniformly excellent. As a story, Dawn bewitches from beginning to end, from its angst-filled opening to its spectacular, action-filled climax.

Here’s a film so technically well-made and impeccably told that the triumph of its visual effects and the clarity of its writing and acting all meld into one, seamless whole. The portrait it builds of humankind, often well-meaning yet constantly thwarted by its flaws, may be a downbeat one, but that is simply another reason why it’s such an incredible filmmaking achievement.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes should not exist - but we’re hugely grateful that it does.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is out in UK cinemas on the 17th July.

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"Dawn is perhaps one of the most satisfying sequels since Aliens"... Terminator 2? The Dark Knight?

But still the movie sounds awesome.

Aliens is obviously a personal preference of the writer. But either way this movie sounds brilliant.

I´ve seen all those movies when they came out, and Aliens is - indeed - by far the most satisfying sequel - if not the frickin' best scifi action spectacle ever made, including Khan and Empre.

So, so glad this doesn't disappoint.

ONE of the most satisfying sequels.
I'm sure the writer would include other sequels in that.

Doing a movie that is part of a long franchise of Ape movies, sequels and reboots is hardly not playing it safe.

I hadn't seen Rise of... until just a couple of week ago as I've never really been that keen on the franchise. But I was completely blown away with how good it was. I was utterly engrossed the whole time. Looking forward to this now.

The Dark Knight?! Hahaha!
I'm not having a go at your personal taste- that's completely cool by me, but that is easily the most disappointing sequel I've ever seen, worse than the Matrix sequels even. I loved pretty much everything about Batman Begins, but I couldn't believe how much I disliked The Dark Knight, how much it depressed me, and how much I was repeatedly yanked out of the viewing experience by boredom and choppy editing. I honestly walked out of the cinema shaking my head, and despite three attempts to watch it again, I'm still at a complete loss as to why so many people claim to enjoy watching it.
I guess I'm too happy and fun loving or something.

Here's a promise- if anyone can tell me what they like about that film without repeating something they've just read in a review, I'll try watching it again.

Phrases which will *not* be considered include such pish as:

"Christopher Nolan is a true visionary."
"The scope of the piece is truly epic".
"Nolan's keen eye on the zeitgiest adds true bleakness to the narrative."
"The character arcs posses a tone reminiscent of Kubrik's meisterwerks."
"A masterful real-world deconstruction of the superhero genre."
"Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker is truly transcendent."

Etc, etc, etc.

Ok- Ledger was on fire. No arguments with that one :)

Woah, five stars. Was expecting a good review but not that, especially as I know DOG does not just hand out 5* reviews lightly. Loved Rise of...now I'm even more hyped for Dawn.


At last!

A film that we all want to see and one that has been hyped up for months now actually lives up to the hype!

Cannot wait to see this.

Maggie Gyllenhal dies...

There are a lot of good sequels out there, the reviewer is not going to name them all!

As someone who loved this film, I can't work out why you were SO disappointed by it considering it is renowned for being a great sequel.

The only thing I did not like about it was that the Joker said he just DID things to see what would happen, he didn't have a plan. Yet the whole story and outcome rested upon the most elaborate plan ever by the Joker. Everything had to work out just right for the next part to work.

I'm not going to tell you to watch it because 'such and such' was so good.

It's a film, we all have different tastes.

Somehow, I just knew....!


Choppy editing? Nah. Hong Kong gliding sequence and escape, quite restrained when it comes to editing, a lovely swooping shot of Batman flying over Hong Kong, fight sequence in Night Club, wide shot showing Batman taking down thugs, Truck Flip - one shot, where other directors would have gone for multiple edits, fight sequence with Jokers henchmen toward the end of the film, again, fairly wide shot longish very few edits. Oh and yes, you may be happy and fun loving, they tried that in a Batman film before.........it was called Batman and Robin.

That's right, because if someone accidentally uses a common phrase like the ones you listed, their opinions are necessarily not their own and are those of a critic.

I expect we are in the minority but I too wasnt keen on TDK much prefering BB which Ive seen so many times. So I agree with you on that score. However I completely disagree that it ranks worse than the Matrix sequels. They were truly terrible and an awful slight on the orignal. And dont get me started on that rave scene. Yuck.

Im sure he would. Not questioning the quality of Aliens nor the writers personal taste; just found it odd that he went back as far as 1986 to name a worthy sequel.

I know! Very high praise indeed!

oh i was just rattling off couple of movies which came to my mind when i read that line.Cheers.

I hated The Dark Knight too, i was so excited to watch it,what a disappointment.

A bit extreme view you have there i must say and from what i make of it nothing I say will change your opinion. Opinions on movies are and should be a very personal choice and cannot nor should be influenced by what someone else feels or writes.Though i must point out that Batman Begins had some choppy edits as well.

I really meant the parts of the film where The Joker perpetrates acts of harm on other people- all clearly and jarringly chopped to bits to lower the film's rating.
Oh God, I don't mean I'm quite *that* happy and fun loving hahaha!

No arguments here really. Glad you didn't take anything personally :)

Um, ok. Maybe it was a bigger surprise that I was so disappointed, but yeah, you've got me there!

I cannot wait for this film, Rise was a sideswipe hit and Dawn is gonna blow everything away!

Um, not sure that's what I meant, sorry if it read that way.
I once overheard a (grown up) customer in a video shop que enthusing "Oh, I just can't wait to travel back to Pandora!", pretty much word-for-word the text from the pre-dvd-release print adverts.
That's the kind of thing I was getting at, not when people by coincidence share the views expressed in reviews.

Not reading this. After the first paragraph I feared spoilers. So fed up of the best movies being spoiled for me. So thanks anyway but I'll wait until after I've seen it.

Rise was one of the best (if not *the* best. That's a matter for debate) reboots in cinematic history and Andy Serkis was brilliant throughout. So, as soon as I heard about the sequel, I was in. It's great to hear that this movie will keep up the quality of the first one.

That's cool, no arguments here, we all like what we like :)

And, um, yes- I know it's a film, and I already said that personal tastes are cool by me.

I tend to get completely absorbed in anything I watch, rather than sit there in a room, aware that I'm watching something on a screen on the wall in front of me (I'm not suggesting you or anybody else is any different!). So when I watch something my initial reaction to it is usually an instinctive and emotional one that I'm removed from in terms of consciously 'deciding' whether I like it or not- I'm there for the ride in the first instance, and it makes me feel whatever it makes me feel. The Dark Knight made me feel incredibly bored and depressed, and it also kept snapping me out of the viewing experience*, making me aware of my surroundings, long before I took time to figure out what I did or didn't like about it. I found Batman Begins a totally different and far more enjoyable experience, so in terms of being a sequel, that's why The Dark Knight was a massive disappointment to me, because it made me feel bored, depressed and frustrated, and I prefer to feel other things such as the excitement, interest and pathos I felt watching Batman Begins. I'm not saying it is the worst film ever made, just that it was a bad experience for me, moreso even on reflection.

*the editing during most of the parts of The Dark Knight where The Joker harms other people is absolutely all over the shop. Jump cuts are one thing, but hacking a film to bits to secure a lower rating shows a mile off, and The Dark Knight was very clearly heavily and badly edited at these points. I'm not clamoring for blood and violence, but a film, like all art, should be allowed to be what it is.

I actually find her really appealing in most things I've seen, she seems to be really good at what she does. Not sure she was a good replacement for the character in this film though, because there was no palpable chemistry between her and her stalker.

There is a certain amount of safety but there is also a huge dose of negativity and Apathy that comes from rebooting long franchise like 'Apes' If anything they have had to play it unsafe to get people to pay attention to it.

No-one wanted 'Rise...' but it demanded your attention on it's own merits and succeeded in-spite of the franchise history, not because of it

This is fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!

In fairness though it really is totally different to the original Apes films

Orangutan Maurice? Perhaps named after Maurice Evans who played orangutan Dr. Zaius in the 60's POTA.

I liked the plot for RISE, though I never found the FX totally believable: the apes looked CG. Hopefully they'll look more realistic in the new film

22 Jump St was actually pretty good too.

All I want to do now is shout out sequels I love...

Empire Strikes Back
Godfather Part II
Scream 2
Spiderman 2
2 Fast 2 Furious (hey, it's MY list!)

Using the PC term "humankind" instead of "mankind" makes you look ridiculous

1) It kept the same director (which most sequels do not)
2) It was awesome
3) It was cool
4) It was sick
5) It was amazing
6) You're probably not invited to many parties

Game Over for the competition, Aliens Kicks Ass.

It's a blessed relief that the internet has people like your fine self, willing to take time out of their busy day to pop online and point that out. You have spotted a real gap there, something that internet commenters weren't doing before. Not only that, you swooped in and plugged that gap.
Humanki... whoops, mankind thanks you.

I see you have a busy day as well

Oh man, I really need to get on board with this - I haven't even seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet. Believe it or not I just can't get too excited about a movie about sentient monkeys threatening humanity. I dunno, it just seems a bit dumb as a premise.

I've only ever seen the original Planet of the Apes, which is OK in a wacky 1960s kind of way, but have never been compelled to delve in further to the series, but the really strong reviews for these new films might have just changed that.

Tell me about it!
When I realised they'd changed Star Trek's opening speech from "where no MAN has gone before" to "where no ONE has gone before" I was so incensed I put my foot through the telly and sent Patrick Stewart the bill!

I can't compete with that, you win! I'm off for a beer! :)

YES! SOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY. Can't wait to see it!

holy smoke 5 stars, gonna read the review now. like wtf. cool

I thought '' Rise '' was overrated but will still check out '' Dawn ''.

Kudos to you for actually giving it 5 Stars. I've seen so many reviews that are glowing with no criticism and yet they're still four star reviews.

F***king hell! 5 stars?? Yes DoG!!!!

A man stands up suddenly in a restaurant. It's not like the movies he thinks, as he gets up abruptly. He has already been choking quietly on a piece of carrot for a good twenty seconds and at his age that's half his lung capacity on a good day. He collapses and sends a table flying.
'Is there a doctor, or someone here able to help?' yells a waiter.
'I'm not!' shouted Tom as he sits back down, beaming, proud of his contribution. 'But I could learn!' He says.
A thought passed through the man's oxygen deprived body before the inevitable darkness. 'At least he made a contribution to the room. Good for you young man. I tip my ha-...'
The man's legs eventually gave up their frantic kicking as the last embers of life shook away from his body, swallowed peacefully by an unseen force.
Good for you Tom. Good for y-

Saw this movie tonight, and the review is spot on. Intelligent writing, impeccable merging of acting and CGI, spectacle and emotion. The movie even touches on the beginnings of religion. @Mark27b .. that's a great lil easter egg i think you have unwrapped!

Ken .. they have improved!

From the clips I've seen I think you're right.

I'm just back in from watching it. Happy to say I agree with the review above, thought it was absolutely excellent

Just been to see it, and it was wonderful. Definitely one of the cinematic highlights of this year so far, along with Winter Soldier and Godzilla. I'm intrigued as to where the franchise will go next, as the originals are some of my favourite films.

Just saw it last night. Brilliant and quite emotional. And the review here is, IMHO, spot on. A summer must see.

Btw, Im a 37 year old female, so this movie is not only for action loving teenage boys :-)

Watched this last night and there is no better movie I have watched this year so far as it relates to good story and action. I got pulled emotionally in all directions. The review is spot on. Highly recommended seeing if you have seen the first. Cautiously optimistic that the third installment can be as good or better.

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