Dawn of the Planet of the Apes… or was it Rise?

[If you haven’t watched the RISE of the Planet of the Apes, then I would give this review a miss in case of some spoilers.]

There won’t be too much of an introduction to this Pick. What can I say? I went with my family for a meal at Wagamama, and then went to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. That’s all there is to it.

I saw the first instalment to the reboot of the original series fairly recently, it being shown on the Film 4 channel close to the release of the sequel. I was a little disappointed to hear James Franco wouldn’t be in the sequel, and looking at the trailer, I had a little voice in my head saying that I might not like this film. Nevertheless, I found myself sitting in a surprisingly busy theatre, with a stomach filled with chicken teriyaki donburi and no high expectations.

Can I just say something here: surely it should of been called RiseDawn sounds more like the beginning of the situation? I looked this up, but it looks like nothing could be done as the director of the first film, Rupert Wyatt, was replace by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves (I also saw that a third instalment is being planned). Anyway, let’s get on with the review.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set ten years after its predecessor. The drug that has made the apes smart has begun sending a virus throughout the human population. All that is left are the people who are immune to the virus. Caesar, the main protagonist ape, is still alive, and has made a colony in the Muir Woods with new love interest, Cornelia and his two sons: Blue Eyes and their new-born.

As the apes and humans start to become more aware of each others’ existence, Caesar decides that he wants nothing to do with the humans. Unfortunately, a group of humans must reach a dam in the apes’ territory to return power to the city of San Francisco. We soon see the relationship characters have with the other species, and how it is individuals who lead the world into chaos on both sides.

I can say that the film has a solid plot to start. The whole point of this movie is to show the relationship between the apes and the humans. Who started to conflict? Did the apes take over the world by force? Did the humans aggravate the apes? The answer? It really isn’t that simple.

One piece of advice to everyone from me: the world is not black and white, nor is it shades of grey, it is a spectrum of colours, from highs to lows. You can’t pinpoint a problem on one cause, and that’s what the writers realised and put to effect. It isn’t far into the film where the apes and humans have a face-to-face meet. We have Caesar, trying to stop conflict the best he can, while we have one particular… body trying to start a conflict. Saying would be spoiling it. I’ll just add that you can see some of the characters being almost physically sick by the sight of the opposing species. Even when their good side is in front of them, they can’t look past the bad, and that is highlighted superbly in the movie.

When the movie finished, I had a woman say rather loudly: “Well that was predictable.” No. No it was not. The ending ends where you would expect, but how it gets there is more different than you would expect.

Secondly: characters. All the apes were fantastic. Full-stop. At the start of the film, I was a little worried about the special effects lacking, as a chase between computer-animated apes and deer became a little fuzzy and clunky, but that was soon brushed into the corners of my mind as I was enthralled with the design of each ape. Other details were superb as well, like the dust covering the remains of humanity, and how everything looks old and decayed.

All subtleties are carefully placed so that each ape can show an array of emotions extremely clearly. The careful twinge of a frown can instantly show such complexity as a deep loathing behind a mask of acceptance. Now the apes can talk to each other a little more, the slow disuse of sign language can be seen throughout the film, to be replace by body language, facial expressions and (finally!) vocal delivery.

The humans were not as impressive I didn’t feel for the protagonists so much, but they all interacted with the apes well. The film focussing on the apes, and the makers know that they are what the audience want to see. However, I want to give a roaring applause to Gary Oldman. He doesn’t have a very large part, he doesn’t have too much dialogue, but I just loved him. There was a very touching moment when he manages to get his iPad to work, and the audience is able to gain an insight into his life, and my goodness is it tragic. Gary Oldman, you were another big green tick that could be added onto this film.

There are other moments which try to add a few tear-jerkers. The horrors of war are displayed quite realistically, which is hard for a 12A film. The cameo by James Franco brings nostalgia to the previous film and where Maurice, the Bornean orangutan also when civilisation looks at its bleakest.

Can I also just say, there is a moment where I could see one of the apes re-enact the scene from Captain Phillips. You know which one: “Look at me… I am the captain now.”

To say something bad about it is hard to say. I could say that the humans were undeveloped, but that would be a lie. The main ones had pasts, but it’s obvious the audience don’t care. We are here for the apes. Every scene where the humans had heart-to-hearts, I was just waiting for the apes to come back again. It’s clear that the production team didn’t skimp out on the amount of apes in the movie. They are practically in every scene.

Comparing it to the previous film, I would say the latter bests its predecessor. While the prequel to Dawn (I’m going to call it Dawn now) did better with the relation between the humans and apes (mostly Caesar), it needed to start setting the scene. Rise (I’mma call it Rise now) gave the first few steps and Dawn took the series to new levels.

In conclusion, Dawn is a sequel that goes deeper into the reasons why the humans fell. It shows the importance of a community, the struggle to survive on both parts and the each side trying to stop the inevitable: war. The film doesn’t paint a good and bad side, but shows the characters to vary in good, evil and in-between, with giving each character a reasonable motive to be doing what they choose to do. With fast-paced, gritty action, stunning special effects and a few stirring moments, Dawn is a film that ticks all the boxes, that anyone can watch and be entertained with. What can I say? It’s brilliant. Full-stop.

I’m pretty pleased on this Pick. I want to do something negative sometime soon, but not sure on what. I will let you all know soon.


Oh, and to the couple next to me who were chatting all the way through. IT’S CALLED WHISPERING!

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