This is a phenomenal film, there is so much greatness in the way of story, music, visuals and performances. I liked 2011’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, but this surpasses it in leaping bounds and provides a near flawless amount of smarts, heart and dramatic tension. It punches to the core, it’s violent, it’s touching and it’s one stunning work of art in motion.
This sequel picks up with a brief outline of the spread of the Simian flu (ALZ-113 to be precise) and leaves us facing a desolated San Francisco where Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a massive group of apes in their new forest home. On the other side of these woods is a small camp of humans led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) trying to survive with decreasing power who stumble onto the ape’s territory and bring about a bubbling sense of dread and danger as each side gets closer to fighting one another. I literally won’t go into any more detail about plot info or other occurrences so as not to spoil a clever and well paced tale.
Let me start with the biggest and most astounding quality of this movie which is in the special effects. I’m not normally fond of films that use a lot of or rely on large amounts of CGI but ‘Dawn of the Apes’ as I shall now call it, uses it so well. The majority of this film falls into Caesar’s camp as his story unfolds, so of course there’s a lot more effects driven drama this time around but wow, it’s so damn impressive. From the opening stampede hunt alone you get the sense of this grand scale effects laden world and it captures the imagination and pulls you right into the environment as if you’re there. The work undertaken by the team who made the effects as perfect as they is groundbreaking. I could go on for ages about the visuals of this film but I don’t wish to bore you. It’s just incredible to believe that these apes are real even though you know they’re not. The slightest details of wet fur matting to wrinkled fingertips immerse you into the brilliant texture and efforts of the team that bring Caesar and his generation to life.
The story is tense and ticks away so nicely that you never feel a lull even when things slow down to let characters or moments breathe. It’s an intelligent plot concerning the troubling turnabout of dominance in both apes and humans and what disaster this can bring to both races. The focus being more on the monkeys this time is a great treat and Caesar’s plight is a thing to behold, even without a lot of dialogue you empathise with him and as his followers begin losing trust in the humans he knows more about you strongly feel for him. The dark touches are a brave yet frankly necessary move for a story such as this, with the threat of mankind being quenched by some oppressive few furry swingers. I may even go to use the word daring in some terms of this 12A movie to include some harsh bleak moments to push the narrative along. It really grabs you from the outset and doesn’t ever let go.
Some of the camerawork is top notch stuff, there’s a lot of sweeping wide angled shots that let you take in a bigger portion of the action, which also makes you admire the CGI work as you see apes in the entire frame doing their thing. The tracking beautiful cinematography inside an empty building and up and through a jagged tower filled with scaffolding showcases some wondrous camera efficiency that plays on the worrying threat of seeing these vengeful apes begin their ascension to take over. A glorious little static moment behind one of the more unfriendly apes as he sits atop a tank is fantastic, the warzone like city moving around and out of shot as we feel stuck to the battle vehicle is a cool little glisten to the cherry on top of the cake I thought.
Human characters in this are a little weak and most don’t really appear apart from showing that we are lovely creatures after all and that they shouldn’t deserve the bad things happening to them. The gritty interesting depth can be found in the apes and it’s not only Caesar who has a story to get told, Maurice the orangutan is back and you get to love him even more, the scarred Koba is back giving more to the story and Caesar’s family are explored as we see his son Blue Eyes, his wife Cornelia and their cute little baby. I like that more of this film revolves around how the apes react to the world around them and how they treat the human influence. There was at least 3 or 4 times that I got misty eyed thanks to events happening in the circle of apes, some sad and some just so touching and sweet with humans bonding with monkeys that you see the resemblance and get all goose bumpy!
Andy Serkis is a talent and his utter brilliance in motion capture is a treasure, a pure golden treasure and the other acts involved in letting the apes shine are sublime. The performance capture art of this film makes it what it is and thanks to this I am really looking forward to Serkis’ future projects and motion capture school; The Imaginarium Studios. This is a film where you could honestly hope for Serkis to be up for an award in acting because he’s just as good or in fact better than the rest of the cast when playing Caesar.
There’s only a few moments where it starts treading into glory blockbusting action and one or two ideas that can be predicted in advance but aside from this and the fact I didn’t like the subtitles being yellow (see I’m stretching here to think of anything negative) it’s a film that must be seen and isn’t the usual summertime blockbuster silly movie to idly sit by watching. There’s brains and brawn to witness and both get explored in fantastically equal measure.
Entertaining, thrilling, heartfelt, tense and gorgeous to look at. ‘Dawn of the Apes’ is a remarkable film stuffed with welcomed beneficial special effects. Hail Caesar.