“From Humans… Koba Learned Hatred”
Those viewers wanting to see Andy Serkis outperform himself as Caesar, and perfectly capture the famous ape’s rise from revolutionary leader to potential king of Earth’s dominant species, will not be disappointed with this summer’s simian blockbuster. Matt Reeve’s take on what makes for a science-fiction sequel, is darker, more stylistic and arguably more emotional than Wyatt’s surprisingly and refreshingly good reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Most of all, there is an underlying intelligence in both the script and its delivery that has appeased many of the saga’s purist fans.
But despite all this intricate emotion etched so magnificently on these motion-capture creatures, which pulls you in like nothing else before, I can’t help but feel it begins to overload the film with an obsession to display the characters, without much scope for the bigger picture. Therefore, the plot is slightly unambitious with a tinge of self-doubt, almost as if the writers Bomback and co didn’t want to make too many decisions and employ too many twists. This is disappointing considering that the array of gentle metaphors and nods to the original franchise are more than visually satisfying. But was I left feeling mystified and pleasantly bewildered in the way that true dystopian science-fiction should leave me? I will have to say no. In fact, I walked away from the whole experience feeling not so much shortchanged, but with a pocketful of unspendable currency.
After the release of the deadly virus that ironically turns from a cure into humanity’s biggest threat, the Earth is left with only pockets of humans left. One of these isolated areas is situated in San Francisco, just on the other side of the bridge from the new intelligent ape colony, led by the stoic and optimistic Caesar. The bridge that divides and joins the two species acts as a nicely digestible go-between for the two sides, commendably isolating the action to the woods, the city and the dam. This sets the film both as a prequel to older films, as well as creating a new timeline. On either side is the stereotypical family man, in this case Clarke and Caesar, and the pessimist, which is played by Oldman and the villainous Koba, who steals the show with his cunning and villanous motives.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a fantastic film and a stunning visual achievement, especially in terms of the apes themselves. But the fact that the apes were both more interesting and exciting to watch than the humans, is both testament to the groundbreaking use of effects and also a worrying finger that points towards a lack of scene stealing dialogue for Oldman and co to work with. This leaves me with a slight concern for the film’s longevity, as the technology and visual effects becomes older and less impressive, and the slightly predictable plot rises to the surface.
Shapstik Verdict: A more visually impressive and spectacular instalment than its predecessor. But for me, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is deceivingly visual in nature and lacks the dramatic pivots that are needed to make it a great in modern science-fiction. In so many ways it is the pinnacle of cinematic achievement, with enough intelligence and focus on the characters to ensure the action moves at fast pace. But after getting used to the visual effects, it all ends with a rather lacklustre, predictable and anti-climatic set of scenes that leave me wondering whether it truly deserves the plaudits it seems to be getting. 7/10