Ror Reviews: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Matt Reeves' follow up to ROTPOTA has been out stateside for a week or so, but it only hits UK/Ireland theaters tomorrow. So for our readers from that neck of the woods, you can find out what your friendly neighborhood Rormachine thought of the film after the jump.
After Tim Burton's dismal direct remake of Planet Of The Apes, 2011's prequel/reboot surprised us all by being pretty damn good. That movie took us back to the source of what kick-started the ape "uprising", and also what led to the extinction of most of the human race. Now we drop in on events almost 10 years later, with Caesar (Andy Serkis) having made a home for he and his fellow apes in the forest, and the last remaining human survivors of the simian flue scattered around in various outposts. When need drives Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his people into Caesar's habitat...well, we all know where this story ends.
Yes, we'll eventually see a human/ape standoff which will set the scene for the events of the original film, but first we have all the really good stuff. For as exciting (and at times bloody intense) as the action scenes in DOTPOTA are, it's in the quieter moments before the storm that this movie really shines.
Although Caesar was obviously a major part of Rise, James Franco shared the screen in most of his scenes. Here he is the main focus and Dawn is all the better for it. The first film built him up as a character we cared deeply about and wanted to see find a peaceful life for himself and his kind, and that's multiplied considerably when we find out that he's now a father, husband and leader of a massive colony of apes. Throughout the film the scenes between he and his fellow primates (in particular his son Blue-Eyes and the duplicitous Koba) stand out as the most moving, and potentially devastating. Koba (the scar-faced bonobo we met in Rise, here played by future Doctor Doom Toby Kebbel) is another standout. His hated and mistrust of the humans is understandable, and we empathize with him right up to the point the writers feel the need to completely demonize him. It was probably inevitable, but the Caesar/Koba dynamic is much more interesting when you can see both sides.
Unfortunately the human characters don't come out as well. The likes of Jason Clarke, Keri Russel, Gary Oldman and Kodi Smit-McPhee all deliver fine performances and even (arguably) have enough screen-time to potentially make an impact, it's just that the script doesn't make best use of their scenes, and we never really care that much about what may become of them.
As far as underlying themes go, they're never exactly subtle (if you miss the anti-gun message you're probably asleep) but here it makes them no less affecting. If the musings on family, trust and man's inability to live in peace are a little on the nose, so be it -- we're always invested enough in the story to be moved by them anyway.
Overall, a bleak but brilliant follow up to Rise, that'll keep you riveted while also giving you some food for thought, and may even make you shed a tear or two. Some character issues aside, this is a must see. Oh, and the special effects are so incredible that I completely forgot that I was watching CG apes, and to make note of them for this review.
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