In the following years, the man-made virus dubbed Simian Flu has claimed millions of lives across the world. Widespread panic and chaos ensued and has now brought the human race to the brink of extinction. A small group of survivors living in a compound in the city devises a way to generate some much needed energy to sustain their way of life. But this involves going into the woods where the apes live and thrive. What starts off as a necessity soon blossoms into an uneasy truce between humans and apes. But peace is soon shattered through their mutual distrust, forcing their leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) to make some tough decisions.
After Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised everyone and came out to huge critical acclaim and box office praise, anticipation has been high for its sequel. Rise was an incredible origin story, populated with heartfelt emotion and a story everyone got onboard with. Now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrives and takes us on a sensational journey to find out just what has happened since the incident in San Francisco. We join the film 10 years on and the opening credits do a marvellous job in setting the scene for where we are now.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a huge success. From the thoughtful and completely logical script from writers Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver down to director Matt Reeves’ keen eye for action and grandeur, this is a gem of a movie. Throw in amazing performances (both live action and performance capture) and you have one of the cinematic highlights of the year.
Andy Serkis really is a master of his craft and someone who deserves a lot more praise and accolade than he gets. His performance as Caesar is nothing short of magnificent, with Serkis showcasing a visible maturity and natural progression in Caesars life. He is a father now, and carries with him the responsibility of acting as leader to thousands of apes. This complexity shines through in his performance, which not only completely captivates your attention, but makes you emotionally invested throughout.
For any cynics out there who don’t take performance capture seriously as a craft, watch this movie. It proves that it’s a valid, collaborative and hugely impressive process between the actor and the animators that unites to create something truly special. This deserves Oscar recognition because Serkis has really excelled here and hands in a performance of incredible substance. His work on both these Apes films is heralding a new form of acting and we are witnessing history being made here.
The success of the first film rested squarely on the shoulders of Andy Serkis. This time around, there is an ensemble of ape-performers who not only share the burden but excel in their given roles. Toby Kebbell is mesmerising as Koba, the suspicious right hand ape to Caesar. His performance is remarkable and he shares a palpable chemistry with everyone, especially Serkis. Other highlights include Nick Thurston as Caesar’s eldest son and Karin Konoval as Maurice, a wise soul who befriends the humans.
Elsewhere there are strong leading turns from the perennially unsung duo of Jason Clark and Keri Russell. Kodi Smit-McPhee does well as Clark’s son and a scene-stealing Gary Oldman adds weight and gravitas to his role as Dreyfus, the leader of a surviving band of desperate humans.
The effects are simply stunning and showcase the future of performance capture. The attention to detail here is staggering, with animal behaviour, movements and even mannerisms painstakingly rendered to a flawless finish. But it doesn’t stop with the apes. The effects are also used brilliantly to concoct some memorable set-pieces including a human-ape standoff in the woods, a gun armoury sequence and a finale that will stay with you for some time.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is easily one of the best blockbusters of 2014. With deep characterisation, a thoughtful and clever script and a deceptively simple premise, this is a joy to witness. It sets up the next phase of this epic story very well and acts as a stark reminder that you can have sensational acting and a meaningful story alongside breakout special effects in large scale cinema. A blockbuster in every sense of the word, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes simply cannot be missed.