Movie review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Political apes

2014-07-13 15:00

Director: Matt Reeves

Featuring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman

Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the Planet of the Apes series is a highly political study wrapped in a compelling story.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes left off. Magnanimous leader Caesar and his troop of genetically modified apes live in relative peace in a post-apocalyptic world where jungles creep across the city and vines claw at the San ­Francisco bridge.

All humans are assumed dead after a lethal man-made flu spread across the globe. But unknown to the apes, a small outfit has survived. The two species meet when a small group of men and women, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), wander into ape territory to resurrect a hydro­electric dam that will restore power to their decimated city.

Although Caesar is willing to let the humans resurrect the hydro­electric dam, knowing that an altercation could lead to war, his ­second-in-command, Koba, who still bears the scars of being experimented upon in a laboratory by scientists, insists that the humans can never be trusted and should be eradicated while they’re still weak.

What ensues is a tense standoff between not only the apes and the humans, but within factions in their colonies. On the human side, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) insists that the apes are not thinking beings, but creatures that should be wiped out as soon as possible.

As history has too often taught us, rivals do not go the way of peace. Instead, an interspecies war erupts. Sucks for them, but it gives viewers the opportunity to see visuals like Koba riding a horse through an explosion while shooting machine guns with both hands. That’s probably the most bad-ass piece of ­cinematography I’ve seen this year.

Unfortunately, female characters get very little space in this instalment. Maybe if they had more screen time, the apes and humans would not have gone to war. Again, this mimics every scenario of war humankind has ever had – old men vie for power, and women and children die in the process.

The CGI in this film is awe-inspiring – the apes’ facial expressions are nuanced and arresting. You end up caring way more about them than you do about the humans.

The Planet of the Apes trilogy is shaping up to be one of the most interesting series of films I’ve seen in a while. If it keeps up with this trajectory, the final instalment (set for July 2016) could be a masterpiece. Go check it out.

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