Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) | Explosive! Exhilarating! Epic! Long may the fur-tastic adventures continue…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Poster

Apes Strong Together!
Ten years after a man-made simian flu epidemic has decimated the human population on Earth, Ceasar (Andy Serkis) and his genetically enhanced simian pals have established a colony of their own in Muir Woods National Park outside San Francisco. But their existence comes under threat by a small group of humans, headed up by the good-natured Malcolm (Jason Clarke), who want to restart a hydroelectric dam in order to restore power to the city.

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When young ape Ash is shot and wounded by Carver (Kirk Acevedo), a member of Malcolm’s group, Caesar’s leadership and loyalty is called into question by Koba (Toby Kebbell), the bonobo chimp that Ceasar saved during their flight from captivity a decade ago. Wanting no ape blood spilled, Ceasar brokers a deal with the humans: they can repair the dam, but only if the humans in the city leave the colony alone in return.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ceasar, however, is unaware that Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the humans’ self-appointed leader, is preparing to wipe out the apes using a cache of weapons stored in an armory. But there’s an even greater threat closer to home. Still nursing the physical and psychological scars of being tortured and kept locked in a cage by humans, Koba plots to dethrone Ceasar and convince Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), the ape leader’s impressionable son, to join him on a devastating attack on the city’s unsuspecting inhabitants…

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Explosive! Exhilarating! Epic!
This sequel to 2011’s surprise hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes is everything a cinema blockbuster should be, and amazingly its even better than its predecessor. The motion capture effects are so darn impressive that its impossible not to get caught up in the riveting story or be won over by the nuanced performances that come through the digitally-created simian characters, especially Serkis’s heroic Ceasar and Kebbell’s vengeful Koba.

And if you strip away the digital fur, you’ll discover an epic tragedy worthy of Shakespeare (there’s shades of King Lear, Hamlet and Othello in there), with Ceasar and Koba taking centre stage as the two friends who become formidable foes when they clash over how best to deal with the human threat.

Central to the film’s story is what it takes to be a good leader, respected father and faithful soldier – and this is mirrored in both the ape and human communities. But while the humans are portrayed as aggressive and territorial (particularly Oldman’s Dreyfus), Ceasar – who wants to see the goodness in man – is forced to accept that apes also share a taste for death and destruction when Koba’s manipulations lead the apes into war.

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This latest prequel reboot is explosive stuff, with the testosterone levels (both human and ape) reaching critical – especially when the apes gets their hands on the armory. But being a Boys’ Own adventure, the film’s female characters have little voice. Ceasar’s wife Cornelia (a reference to Cornelius in the original films, perhaps?) remains bedridden and sickly after giving birth to a second son, while Malcolm’s new wife Ellie (Keri Russell) functions only as a nurse maid. This sidelining, however, does highlight the inherent weakness in all patriarchal societies and dictatorships – that the male of the species always resorts to ruling with violence (or maybe that’s just me reading too much into it).

If there is one criticism its with Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Malcolm’s teenage son, whose story ends up getting lost in the 3D fray. He does however get to share some quality screen time with one of my favourite simian characters, Maurice the orangutan (named after Maurice Evans, the British actor who played Dr Zaius in Planet of the Apes).

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes certainly does share the same nihilistic themes that were key to the final films of the original franchise, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Battle of the Planet of Apes (1973), and has some knowning nods to the earlier entries, but this futuristic adventure is very much its own chest-beating beast. And if the final shot is anything to go by then long may the fur-tastic simian adventures continue.

 

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on July 17, 2014, in Must See, Must-See, Sci-Fi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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