Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) review: Apes with guns! Apes with guns on horses!

Film

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-DI

Directed by:Matt Reeves Written by:Mark BombackRick Jaffa4 more credits » Starring: Gary OldmanKeri RussellAndy Serkis, Jason Clarke

 The blurb says: “A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.”

My verdict: After Rise of the Planet of the Apes provided a Dark Knight-esque reboot to the 60’s Planet of the Apes franchise, providing both a critical and financial success, it was somewhat inevitable there would be a sequel. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up ten years on from Rise, with most of the human race having been wiped out by what is now dubbed ‘Simian Flu’. Caesar (Serkis) and his shrewdness of apes (yes, that is the collective noun, apparently) find themselves pitted against a group of surviving humans, creating factions within their own community as well as that of the humans. This gives us apes versus humans, apes versus apes and humans versus humans, so as you can imagine, that’s A LOT of fighting.

The fight sequences are all hugely entertaining, and I even found myself inwardly air-punching at the sight of the apes taking up arms (and…other things which I won’t spoil) and riding on horseback into battle, which has led to the film’s unofficial title ‘Apes on Horses’.

The CGI is all fantastic, with some true showing off from New Zealand FX company Weta Digital, particularly with regard to the uncanny opening and closing shots.

However, the characters all feel a little flat, and drawn with extremely broad brushes, the humans in particular. Gary Oldman feels wasted on a role that is little more than “Scared Mayor of Town”. The apes feel far more rounded, even with the clear divide between ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, with Andy Serkis putting in a stellar performance as Caesar.

That’s not to say it’s not still an enjoyable film, and it does have it’s clever and touching moments, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations in terms of story. Visually it is a stunning showcase of the latest computer-generated art, but it just didn’t quite have the heart of Rise to match these superior visuals.

7 out of 10

 

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