Film Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2014) ★★★★

It's been ten years since the ending of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and ALZ-113 has wiped out man-kind. Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his fellow apes have settled peacefully in the forest, content in their civilized society. Unaware of the neighboring community, their idyllic settlement is soon interrupted when humans enter the forest in search of power resources and, while Caesar wants only peace, the advanced party of human survivors have preconceived ideas of their own.

When approaching the prequel-sequel in the reprise of the Planet of the Apes saga, director Matt Reeves was asked to portray the human world after the virus in an apocalyptic, caveman-like state. Instead, he wanted to tell the tale from the side of the apes, an evolved, peaceful society and a life free from mankind. And of course, we've seen the aftermath of a virus and it's surviving humans countless times in previous Planet of the Apes sequels please numerous horror and sci-fi productions.

What makes this so interesting is seeing it from another point of view, shown stunningly through Reeve's vision of a world dominated by Caesar. Better yet is that it does not reflect that of the other Planet of the Apes films yet it shares it's DNA and whilst we know exactly what the outcome must be, audiences are more then happy to come along for the ride. Before long, you are amerced in the visage of utterly believable orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees swinging, riding and scrambling through the remains of San Francisco. Yet, at no point did I feel in awe or given time to take it all in, instead Reeves invites you on a journey where you do not even question what you are seeing on screen. He is able to adapt to his environment, from wobble-cam through the depths of the jungle, to the cine-scope shots of the city. The film itself pays homage to the Heston-esk saga and keeps close to it's roots with subtle gestures and memorable quotes we see in the originals.

The films success depends heavily on how believable it is, and whilst we cannot entirely accept monkeys riding horses and firing machine guns, Serkis and his Imaginarium have joined forces with Reeves to create something truly Oscar worthy, if only for it's visual effects. Using dozens of tiny cameras on each actors helmet, Serkis is able to portray a whole new level of storytelling as Caesar and Toby Kebbell's unforgettable performance as the hate fuelled Koba. It is easy to forget, that married so well with it's story that we are not watching CGI, visually created animals, but a believable performance.

The irony comes from the redundancy of technology in their post-apocalyptic world. In several scenes, we see old technology; iPads and video cameras, the characters look back at the life their once knew and this is one of the many ways in which apes and humans are reunited and comparisons are drawn between the two. For many of them, they can not remember what life was like before but for Caesar, the memory of humans and past relationships is fresh in his mind. Likewise for Malcolm (Clarke) and Dreyfus (Oldman) who, realising that resources are running out, know they must venture in to the woods in order to gain power from an abandoned power-station. Malcolm,  longs to restore the quality of life for the good of his family and assembles a team to seek out the hydroelectric dam in the forest. Whilst in the woods they realise they are not alone and it is heavily populated with the apes and their utopia. Caesar's son, Blue Eyes and Ash are out in the woods when they come face to face with the group of humans. One of their men panics, shooting one of the chimpanzees, tensions flare between the neighboring settlements. Malcolm, his son (played by Kodi Smit-Mcphee) and partner (Russell) build a relationship with the apes and it seems that the two species can live in harmony but Koba (Kebbell) is unable to let go of his resentment towards the humans and is consumed by his hate. Before long, he plans a mutiny against Caesar and wages war against mankind with catastrophic repercussions for the human race.

  Whilst the story is a little predictable, it has no choice but to be anything else. We all know as film fans that the apes will triumph eventually and go on to run the planet (hence Planet of the Apes) but this is a mere stepping stone on it's journey. Reeve's is clearly aware of this and instead focuses his efforts on the visuals and the details within the narrative which only add further to the mise en scene and make this film so easy to watch. This does, in turn, make it difficult to explain the story without giving too much of the plot line away but only provides more reason to see it for yourself. In conclusion then, whilst this film's story may not change your life and you won't necessarily be on the edge of your seat, you will be utterly thrilled by the extraordinary visuals and memorable performances that are changing the future of cinema and are bound to be recognized by the Academy for all the right reasons. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a beautifully executed prequel sequel through Reeve's vision and gets a Sophie star rating of 4 out 5 stars. Plus, Gary Oldman is in it.

Thanks for reading and hope you go see it for yourself. Apologies for a long overdue review. Over the last few weeks, I've been lucky enough to get to the cinema almost twice a week but means I'm rubbish at getting the reviews done fast enough. Stay tuned for some more coming soon such as Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inbetweeners 2 movie.

Have a great weekend, film lovers,


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