Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), a reboot of the phenomenally successful Planet of the Apes saga (1968 - 1973) that included five movies, a TV series, an animated series and a merchandising bonanza, is a worthy Apes story that improves on its predecessor with a humanist socio-political message and a strong anti-gun stance. 

On the edge of a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, ape leader Ceasar’s band of intelligent simians is surviving the only way they know how, by hunting and living in the forest, whereas humans are quickly declining in numbers and desperately clinging to life in small pockets around the globe.

The filmmakers have once again made a smart suspenseful film that’s dedicated to the emotional life of the characters and respects the spirit of the original thought provoking films.

It’s a precarious time for both humans and apes, taking place ten years after the previous film, it’s a time where mankind has all but disappeared from the earth which now looks like the History channel’s Life after People series with buildings and streets in ruins, decaying and slowly being reclaimed by wilderness. A time between the decline of humanity and the rise of the Apes who will eventually emerge as the dominant species on the planet.

After a virus has wiped out most of the human population except for a few who have a genetic immunity, Ceasar’s ape colony has grown in numbers and living in a lush ape-topian forest canopy, experimenting with the beginnings of language and a moral code of ethics that may eventually lift them out of their primitive past.  “Ape shall not kill Ape” 

The look of the apes in this film has been refined to such an unparalleled level of realism and is so convincing that the character of Caesar is completely captivating as a being caught between two worlds but not totally belonging in either. All the ape characters are unique and interact seamlessly with the humans.

Caesar has distinguished himself as a strong, natural leader and role model for the burgeoning ape colony, and the evolved apes have managed to live in peace until they accidentally come in contact with a group of armed human survivors bent on winning back what was lost. 

Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, has become somewhat of a cult legend among sci-fi and fantasy fans for being the go-to-guy for motion capture characters like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001 - 2003), King Kong in King Kong (2005), Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (2011), a consultant on Godzilla (2014) and gives a mesmerizing performance here as the brooding simian leader who now also has the responsibility of raising a family of his own.

The desperate band of humans bring with them an arsenal of weaponry and are eager to repair a hydro electrical power generator that will restore some much needed human conveniences. But the generators that need repair are in ape controlled territory and the apes are not about to trust the humans or allow them anywhere near their families, knowing all too well their racist, selfish and destructive tendencies. 

This theme has been a constant throughout the Apes saga from the very beginning. It was the destructive and war like nature of man that caused his destruction and lead to the domination of apes in the original films and it continues to be a prominent theme here in the latest installment of the popular saga. There are some striking parallels here especially with the final film of the original saga, Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

One sympathetic human, Malcolm, slowly befriends Caesar, appealing to his sense of brotherhood and cooperation for mutual benefit.  But joining forces with the humans doesn’t sit well with the rest of the ape clan, particularly one of Caesars’s most loyal apes, Koba, who holds a strong grudge and mistrust of humans after being subjected to inhumane laboratory experiments.

The mistrust of human motives is well founded more often than not, and the epic struggle between two tribes begins….again.



Max Ivey said...

Hello; I love your reviews if they can be called reviews. I always learn so much more. in this case its how you compare the current films to the previous series. its also information like how the guy who plays caesar also brought gollum and other similar characters to life. thanks for sharing, max

Tim OCallaghan said...

Nice review of this film John. I saw the first installment as well as the originals and am looking forward to this one.