Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves, 2014) – A troop of genetically evolved apes stands at the brink of war, battling for dominance against human survivors of the Simian flu.

Verdict

With a tense build-up to a thrilling battle, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes chalks up to another fine victory to the simian spirit.

4/5

Review

Ten winters have passed. Unrest stemming from the simian flu has decimated the human population, and where men had once proudly (or obnoxiously, as some may argue) occupied is now the planet of the apes. Free from the leash, Caesar (Andy Serkis) now leads a large troop of genetically altered and highly intelligent apes like himself, finding repose away from the city in the vast redwood forest.

Dawn of Apes dives straight into a bold opening. Devoid of the slightest human presence, the movie immediately establishes its true stars: the simian colony. Initial minutes intrigue with echoes of our primeval civilisation. The apes interact with unsettling primitive human likeness, signing and moving with shrewd caution during their hunt for prey.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Of apes and men.

A mere decade later, the apes’ evolutionary growth seems close in equalling humanity. They thatch their homes with logs. They harness horses, like how man had once used species that they deem lesser. It is a peculiar and evocative alternate reality, one that posits fascinating questions on what human intellect and perceived supremacy truly mean.

Such allegorical references follow in their adapted adage, ‘Apes not kill apes’. It is an indication of the start to a very human game of politics. The commandment foreshadows the revision it will eventually face to tell: ‘Some apes are more equal than others’. Like how most wars begin, fear in losing the whip hand sparks off a battle for dominance.

Acting upon broadened minds, apes learn to question their leadership and strife for power. Koba (Toby Kebbell) chooses guns over diplomacy, opposing Caesar’s rooted conviction in peaceful co-existence. A small band of human survivors derive similar divisive notions. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) insists upon preparation for an all-out war, while Malcolm (Jason Clarke) keeps faith in the inter-species covenant against combat.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
“What’s eating Koba The Ape?”

Plot-wise conventionality shows in these simplistic, clear-cut divides that hold predictable triumphs for both camps. A well-crafted script ensures that the apes remain compelling in their emotional depth and most of all, unexampled acumen of their species.

But it neglects to do the same for the humans. They suffer tedious archetypes like the dull, reckless agitator and shoehorned tropes of familial bonding that proved too brief to leave a mark. Such painfully boring two-dimensional characters will in no time have most of the audience imploring to see more of the apes instead.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Besting any expectations set by its predecessor Rise, the lifelike apes are more majestic than they ever had been as they tote machine guns and ride into war. The imposing spectacle is an elegant stunner, owing thanks to the amazing finesse in visual effects, cinematography and not forgetting, the motion capture cast.

Every flaunt of the ground-breaking technological marvel leaves no gap between, leading up to the awe of the eventual clash between the apes. A hugely entertaining finale matches the thematically robust blockbuster, building great expectations for its inevitable follow-up.

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