Movie Reviews

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes': Super simians sizzle

By Zaki JufriMovies - 09 July 2014 9:00 AM | Updated 16 July 2014

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes': Super simians sizzle

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Our Rating

4/5 Stars

So far this Hollywood summer movie season, movie-goers have paid good money to watch a rampaging monster, mutants battling robots, morphing robots and a soldier with time-bending abilities.

But no image has been as stirring as a menacing chimpanzee on horseback, leaping through a wall of fire with a machine gun in each hand. 

When 2011’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ arrived a decade after Tim Burton’s 2001 remake, the Rupert Wyatt’s reboot surpassed expectations with its sheer inventiveness as well as a core story that is evocative and engaging.

Now, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ might just be the best chapter of the franchise yet. 

Directed by Matt Reeves, ‘Dawn’ is what ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was to ‘Star Wars’, or what ‘28 Weeks Later’ was to ‘28 Days Later’ – yes, it is really that good.

What Reeves has done (with a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback) is perhaps one of the best science-fiction films of this generation.

MOVING WAR DRAMA

In terms of storytelling, character development and depth, ‘Dawn’ puts its predecessor in the shade.

It is a film so moving and thoughtful in tone, keeping to the main characteristic of the series. 

While the main thrust of the first film was about the unintended consequences of animal testing, ‘Dawn’ switches lane and goes for the jugular, fashioning the story as a war drama with the conflict of humans-versus-apes as its central theme. 

After the wake of the ape escape from the Gen-Sys Labs and their rampage through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge in the first film, the contagious Simian Flu virus has, over the course of a decade, wiped out most of humanity and left the rest fighting for survival. 

SIGN LANGUAGE

The genetically enhanced apes have done well for themselves and built a community in the forests outside the post-“ape”-calyptic San Francisco.

Under the leadership of Caesar (Andy Serkis), the ape society – an inter-species group of chimpanzees, orang utans, gorillas and other apes – have mastered rudimentary English as well as developed a form of sign language that is, thankfully, translated via subtitles to an awed audience. 

The plot thickens when a group of men led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) stumbles on to the apes in a search for energy resources, and Caesar reluctantly agrees to work with them over the objections of his tribe and family. 

Malcolm also has to convince his fellow chums that the apes simply want peace.  

It is this dynamic between the two sides that makes ‘Dawn’ so compelling.

This sociological study has always been at the heart of the series and never has it been so fleshed out and masterfully brought to the screen like in ‘Dawn’.

After ‘Cloverfield (2008) and ‘Let Me In’ (2010), director Matt Reeves delivers the goods for this one, meshing breathtaking action sequences with moments of quiet introspection. 

MOTION-CAPTURE SPECTACULAR 

With the motion-capture technology courtesy of Peter Jackson’s Weta digital visual effects team, the apes in ‘Dawn’ are more than just beasts who thump their chests.

Serkis, 50, best known as the man behind Gollum in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie series, puts up such a rousing performance that he chews every scene in which he appears, giving the film its emotional pull. Toby Kebbell does a great turn as the rabble-rousing and power-hungry ape Koba as well.

They and the other “ape actors” are so convincing, they put the cast playing their human counterparts to shame. 

Yes, we have arrived at that point in modern cinema where a virtual ape can garner more sympathy than a human. 

After you exit the cinema, you will be left hungry for more, and you are sustained for the time being by the news that director Reeves and Serkis will be back for the next instalment. 

This movie is essential viewing and you would be bananas to give it a miss.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ opens in cinemas 10 July 2014


Zaki Jufri (@mzplus) is the resident film critic and editor of inSing Movies.

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
  • Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

    (2014)
  • Rated
    PG13 /
    Genre
    Action, Drama, Science Fiction
  • Language
    Eng
  • (6 Reviews)