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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Review


Director: Matt Reeves.

Cast: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbel, Jason Clark, Kerri Russell, Gary Oldman.

Certificate: 12A.

Running Time: 130 minutes.

Synopsis: After the simian flu causes the collapse of human civilisation, the apes’ society thrives. But when Caesar and the apes encounter humans for the first time in years, are they be able to co-exist or will the war for species superiority finally begin?

That 2011’s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES was such a brilliant reboot came as a welcome surprise. Not because the potential of the franchise was ever in doubt, but because of the foul taste left in the mouth from Tim Burton’s abysmal 2001 ‘re-imagining’ (which was pure monkey business – a bit like Burton flinging his own shit around the place and masturbating at groups of tearful schoolchildren for the amusement of no one but himself).

The question now is whether the next instalment can sustain the first movie’s good work, or – Dr Zaius forbid – even improve on it. With original director Rupert Wyatt stepping down, a less bankable actor on leading man duties, and visual and narrative ambitions of King Kong-sized proportions, it seemed like a big ask. But like an ape that can talk and ride a horse on its first go, this film series continues to surprise us.

There’s a lot of ground to cover before we reach the events of the original APES movie (a couple of thousand years, in fact). DAWN isn’t rushing to catch up with Chuck Heston though. Instead, the film takes its sweet time doing everything a sequel should, working as a standalone story while further developing the characters and story for even more monkey magic at a later date.

To say DAWN should be considered as one of Hollywood cinema’s most successful follow-ups is no exaggeration. OK, it’s no GODFATHER II (this is still very much blockbuster cinema, a place where plot contrivances, irregularities, and straight-up nonsense can be distracted from with the spectacle of some heavily-armed chimps smashing the place up) but DAWN outstrips its predecessor in every way.

You want stunning motion-capture work? No problem. In the mood for big exciting action set-pieces? Consider it done. How about a surprisingly clever look at morality and the animalistic nature of man? Forget about it. In fact, treat yourself to a relaxing swing on the tyre – with replacement director Matt Reeves, the franchise is in good hands.

DAWN’s real trick is bringing its apes to the forefront and letting the humans play support. Having a less famous lead star in Jason Clarke (a face you’d recognise but name you’d have to look up on IMDb) proves not to be a problem. Mostly because he’s not the lead star. Make no mistake – this film belongs to Caesar and his simian pals.

For this achievement, praise is deserved all round – to Serkis and his fellow mo-cap actors, the FX wizards, and, arguably most of all, the writers. There’s no relying on just CG to bring these chimps or their Endor-esque home to life. It’s the script that makes the ape society truly immersive, built on a foundation of intricacies – customs, communication, and character dynamics.

If anything, the apes are so good they’re to the detriment of the human characters. Prone to brainless violence and mass hysteria, the homo sapiens are occasionally relegated to serving a purely functional purpose (as stock characters in blockbusters are wont to do). But the few of the apes are treated so poorly. Considering they’re digital creations, they pack a seriously emotional punch. By the time things kicks off for the blistering final act, you’ll be amazed how attached you’ve to those cheeky buggers.

There are other slip ups – presumably because of all the banana peels left around the place. The film is 15 minutes too long and can’t quite swing past the usual plot holes. But that’s nothing to worry about when everything else is this good. It’s blockbuster cinema of the highest order, with brains, blowed-up stuff, and big hairy balls – after all, not many big budget movies would be brave enough to dedicate half the running time to chimpanzees talking in sign language (don’t worry – there are subtitles, you won’t be expected to come prepared). And if your heart doesn’t melt at the sight of an orangutan named Maurice reading a copy of Charles Burns’ Black Hole, you’re simply not human. No bad thing as it turns out.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has not only topped RISE, it’s left us wanting more – thousands of years’ worth. There’ll be no more monkeying around for this franchise. From here, it’s world domination.

They finally did it. The maniacs.

[usr=5]  DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is in cinemas 17th July

Tom Fordy is a writer and journalist. Originally from Bristol, he now lives in London. He is a former editor of The Hollywood News and Loaded magazine. He also contributes regularly to The Telegraph, Esquire Weekly and numerous others. Follow him @thetomfordy.

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