Written by Dania Syed

 

What To Expect

"Look Ma! I'm riding a horse! Oh also I have a gun!"

“Look Ma! I’m riding a horse! Oh also I have a gun!”

When you walk into a theatre bearing the poster of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes outside, you brace yourself for 130 minutes of loud, dramatic action. When you get to your seat, you wonder, Perhaps I’m in for more than just a face-off for the title of Earth’s most dominant species. And once you put your 3D glasses on – if you watch it in 3D, that is – you’re in for some spectacular visuals and Ape CGI’s. Truth is, there’s not more to the film than just this – man vs. ape. Again.

Matt Reeves took on the reins for this blockbuster sequel, which is inching close to raking in $200 million at the box office, after leaving the development project of a movie based on television’s The Twilight Zone. Having previously been in the director’s chair for monster movie Cloverfield and, more recently, the romantic horror Let Me In – a remake of a Swedish movie – expectations run in limbo. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, however, has clearly proven to be Reeves’s most successful work till date.

What’s It About

The film picks up almost where its predecessor (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) left off. The simian flu has decimated our species around the globe and a few of those immune scuffle for survival in what remains of San Francisco, where the apes – led by the remarkably visionary Caesar (Andy Serkis; The Lord of the Rings) – have been prospering for a decade. Leading “our side” – albeit not from the front – is Dreyfus – Caesar’s counterpart – played by Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

Our hero, Malcolm – played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) – ventures out in search for a power source along with his teenage son and Ellie (Keri Russell; television’s The Americans), a former nurse, before hell almost breaks loose. An encounter with the apes ends anything but favourably for the humans, who are ordered to leave by Caesar. Malcolm returns to ask Caesar for permission to work on a dam located in the Apes’ part of the woods, in order to generate power for the city and its survivors. Caesar, after much thought – perhaps not that much – grants them permission to stay for 3 days provided they surrender all their arms, paving the way for conflict, rebellion, distrust and, eventually, war.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Keri: "Um, if I'm done here, can I go back to being a Russian spy already?" Jason: "No you can't."

Keri: “Um, if I’m done here, can I go back to being a Russian spy already?”
Jason: “No you can’t.”

Let’s not stall. The second instalment of the Apes reboot has unquestionably some of the best CGI and VFX. The mammoth Effects and Animation teams, supervised by Joe Letteri – the bloke known for his work on Avatar, The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings, and Man Of Steel – have all put together visual wizardry, making it an absolute treat to watch in 3D. If it weren’t a known fact that the apes were just CGI, one would believe that they were indeed a scientific miracle!

Just as Dawn’s graphics are as fantastic as Avatar’s, so is – it seems – the core of its screenplay. Not to imply for a second though that the film is a direct rip-off James Cameron’s work, but this writer couldn’t help but notice the familiarity. Simply put, there wasn’t anything that I haven’t seen/heard before in terms of the plot. A couple of dawning (pun intended), sentimental and sometimes heartwarming moments throughout the film, including some (mostly positive) subliminal messages in its dialogues, there’s not much depth to the plot. The “human” side of the apes was convincing enough in ‘Rise,’ and the attempts to reinforce their similarity to humans felt forced and redundant.

To Perform Or Not To Perform

"But I'm the bossman! I helped Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty! Don't kill me!"

“But I’m the bossman! I helped Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty! Don’t kill me!”

Despite the bond(s) between the characters, and the progression – or regression – of their relationship(s) through the course of the film barely being deep-rooted, Andy Serkis – the man who brings Gollum (The Lord Of The Rings) to life – steals the spotlight as charmingly with his portrayal of Caesar as the leading ape himself is. The aura surrounding the head of the family is so enigmatic that you can only nod in agreement with Malcolm when he admiringly says of Caesar, “He’s more than just an ape.”

Gary Oldman – a name we have grown to love over years – brings little of his well-known diversity to the screen. He’s great to have on as Dreyfus, but all the film would have missed without him would have been his name. Jason Clarke is very modest in his portrayal of Malcolm’s coexistent heroism and kindness. His on-screen chemistry with Keri Russell fails to light up any sparks, however, one could possibly ascribe that to the writing. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing! The last thing we want is a cliché kiss in the midst of destruction.

Worth It?

Summing up, ‘Dawn’ isn’t the worst film to have released this summer, but it’s not the greatest! (Apes on horses? Really?) Add to that, however, the stunning cinematography and visuals – yes, can’t stop raving about them – and you’ve got a fairly enjoyable cinematic experience. Expect quite a tight finish at the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects this year.

Star Rating: 3 / 5