RELEASED: 17th July 2014
DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves
CAST: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Tony Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Kirk Acevedo, Doc Shaw, Judy Greer, Lee Ross, Keir O’Donnell, Jocko Sims, Enrique Murciano, Keir O’Donnell, Lombardo Boyar, Kevin Rankin, Jon Eyez and Gary Oldman
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $710.6m
AWARDS: None (Oscar nomination and BAFTA nomination)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes us forward ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where the ALZ-113 virus (also known then as the Simiman Flu) has wiped out most of the human population while mostly known human society has perished from the virus and fighting amongst themselves. Caesar’s tribe are thriving in their environment until a group of human survivors resurface, hoping to locate and operate a hydroelectric dam in their territory that would restore power to the city of San Francisco. A fragile truce is formed between the apes and the humans, though Caesar’s lieutenant Koba doesn’t trust the humans to keep the peace and the friction between him and Caesar might spark a war.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this time with Matt Reeves in the directors chair instead of Rupert Wyatt. Whilst it’s not often the case, sometimes a sequel goes bigger and bolder compared to the original that the finished product sometimes excels in every way in that comparison. What stands out immediately from the first imagery on screen after the opening graphic/news coverage montage title sequence is the eyes of Caesar, zooming out to show him and the rest of the ape tribe behind him on the trees, as they hunt deer in the woods. The visual effects by Weta Digital are absolutely astounding here, every detail that went into the look of the apes make them feel shockingly realistic and the fact that it still didn’t win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year still shocks me (lost out to Christopher Nolan’s Interstallar). While Rise of the Planet of the Apes felt 50/50 in terms of balance between Caesar and Will Rodman, here in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the apes definitely have the primary focus of the story, and while the original film was more black and white in portraying the majority of humans as bad, uncaring and unsympathetic in regards to their treatment of apes, especially those being tested, here the film becomes grey in characters motivations, ape and human kind, and it makes the viewing experience all the better for it. What make Dawn of the Planet of the Apes worth watching is the relationship between Caesar and his lieutenant Koba. We see from the opening scene how Koba will run into battle, as it were, to save Caesar and Blue Eyes, but once the humans turn up for the first time in several years, you immediately feel the tension in the air and the cracks in their friendship begin to crumble. We’ve seen Caesar being nurtured and treated well by Will in Rise, leading him to still have an affection towards humans and giving Malcolm and his group the benefit of the doubt of restoring power to the city to help them survive. Koba however was tortured and experimented on in Rise and left scars to remind him of the worst of mankind and understandably, he doesn’t trust Malcolm and his group, believing that if they allow them to restore power, what’s stopping them from thriving and eventually attack their tribe in the woods? The screenplay Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver handles the narrative of Caesar’s and Koba’s character arcs very well, especially given that both of them have very valid arguments against the other, though Koba’s hatred towards humans grows stronger every second that they stay near their colony, particularly the moment he begins to question Caesar’s leadership by allowing them to do their ‘human work’. What makes the best villains, well…the best, is that they believe that their motives and actions are for the greater good in their mind and that is what makes Koba one of the best villains of the last decade, and it’s also what makes Caesar one of the most compelling protagonists of the last decade, as we see how conflicted he is in trying to do the right thing by his kind, even though his actions may alienate those close to him and his main rule of ‘Ape shall not kill ape’ is put to the test. The motion capture performances of the cast doing the apes are terrific here. Andy Serkis gives a terrific performance as Caesar, Karin Konoval is great as Caesar’s closest advisor and friend Maurice, Nick Thurston is really good as Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who has a conflicting arc as well especially in the second half of the film, and Toby Kebbell arguably gives his best performance as Koba. The human cast performances are also really great too, with Jason Clarke giving a really good performance as Malcolm, a human that’s trying to do the right thing for all involved, while Gary Oldman gives a good performance as Dreyfus, the leader of the human colony that will do whatever necessary in order to save the human race, and Keri Russell is really good as Ellie. The direction from Reeves is fantastic here in not only telling the narrative, but also how he constructs and frames the action sequences, from the ape charge on the human colony to the climatic finale between Caesar and Koba at the top of the tower. The cinematography by Michael Seresin is great throughout, as is the score composed by Michael Giacchino.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Whilst it is difficult to pick and stick to one favourite moment as there’s so many in this film, for me it’s the initial shock I felt seeing Koba shoot Caesar, falling presumably to his death and the tribe’s home being on fire. It’s the visual imagery that makes it stand out, especially at the end of the sequence with Koba telling Blue Eyes he will avenge his father’s death whilst their home is completely ablaze behind them.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Caesar weak.
Koba weaker.” – Koba and Caesar
DID YOU KNOW: There are two clues to the fate of Will Rodman (James Franco) after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). When Caesar returns to his house, a sign can be seen with an “X” on the stoop by the door. Usually this means someone living there is infected, so it can be assumed he was one of the first to die in the plague. Also, Will’s 1980s-era Jeep Wagoneer is still parked in front of the house, covered in vines and vegetation, but it can clearly be seen when Caesar and friends first arrive to the house. Of course, if Will had left his house, he most likely would have driven his vehicle.