Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - review

You know the phrase give 1000 monkeys a 1000 typewriters and eventually you'll get Shakespeare?

Well in truth if the monkeys were writing a story, surely they would write something like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes first right?

I asked Caesar that very question and he replied "Apes writing movie together Strong. And don't call me Shirley"

The Planet Of The Apes was a franchise built on the foundations of Oscar-winning make up and THAT twist ending, which can't even be called a twist anymore as it is featured on the DVD cover.

2011's Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes began to tell the story of how the apes took over the planet and its biggest twist was that turned out to be one of that year's best blockbusters, skilfully blending an intelligent screenplay with action and featured some of the greatest CGI effects ever seen, led by Andy Serkis's motion capture performance as Caesar.

Dawn picks up ten years after the simian flu outbreak has killed off the majority of the humans on the planet and the apes are living in a colony in the forests outside San Francisco but they certainly do not reside anywhere near the uncanny valley as the effects are absolutely impeccable and you really will forget you are watching a CG character, particularly the orangutan Maurice.

They hunt, gather, provide, have an education system and live together harmoniously until humans from a group of survivors visit the forest to try and repair a dam that will provide them with power.

Things start off all "Oobi Doo, I Wanna Be Like You" with an uneasy truce between the species but soon enough it turns into "I hate every ape I see from chimpan-aye to chimpanzee" thanks to the actions of distrustful parties on both sides (Gary Oldman's military man Dreyfus and Caesar's angry second-in-command Koba).

Make no mistake, these films are called Planet Of The Apes for a reason and just like the human race in the original, the humans in this film play second fiddle to the apes as this is Caesar's story and his rise from test subject to curiosity to liberator to leader is the main focus of the story.

This film really should have be called Rise as it is the one where they fight the humans and learn to use weapons. Dawn is a more appropriate title for the first film especially as despite the name there is very little female representation here with the only female ape restricted to giving birth and nearly dying afterwards. One wonders if there was more to Caesar's wife Cornelia in the original script and it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Dawn is one of the most intelligent blockbusters of the year with lots of social and political undercurrents to the action. After an incredible middle act that sees the apes down tools and execute their American right to bear arms (will there be a more iconic action image this year than a crazed ape firing two machine guns while riding a horse?), it is interesting that the final fight is not for the planet but comes down to the fight for control of each faction with human vs human and ape vs ape.

There is no monkeying around with this refreshing antidote to brainless dumb summer crap like Transformers: Age Of Extinction but it does feel like the middle act of a trilogy as it leaves you wanting to immediately continue the story.

In terms of 2014 movies about simians, this one is chimply the best.

4 stars

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