Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

…or was it Rise?


[If you haven’t watched the RISE of the Planet of the Apes, then beware of spoilers.]

There won’t be too much of an introduction to this Pick. What can I say? I went with my family for a meal at Wagamama and then went to watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. That’s all there is to it.

I only saw the first instalment of this rebooted franchise on Film 4. I was a little disappointed to hear James Franco wouldn’t make an appearance in this sequel, and looking at the trailer, a little voice in my head nagged that I might not like this film. Nevertheless, I found myself sitting in a surprisingly busy theatre, with a stomach filled with chicken teriyaki donburi and no high expectations.

Can I just say something here: surely it should have been called Rise? Doesn’t Dawn sound more appropriate for the beginning film? I did some digging and found that director Rupert Wyatt was replaced by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves, so Reeves couldn’t really change the title if he tried. Apparently, a third one is in the works, so maybe It’ll be named more sensibly. Anyway, let’s get on with the review.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set ten years after its predecessor. The drug that has made the apes smart has begun sending a virus throughout the human population. All that is left are the people who are immune to the virus. Caesar, the main protagonist ape, is still alive and has made a colony in the Muir Woods with new love interest, Cornelia, and his two sons: Blue Eyes and their new-born.

As the apes and humans start to become more aware of each others’ existence, Caesar decides that he wants nothing to do with the humans. Unfortunately, a group of humans must reach a dam in the apes’ territory to return power to the city of San Francisco. We soon see how individuals lead the world into chaos on both sides.

I can say that the film has a solid plot. The whole point of this movie is to show the relationship between the apes and the humans. Who started to conflict? Did the apes take over the world by force? Did the humans aggravate the apes? The answers aren’t simple.

One piece of advice to everyone from me: the world is not black and white, nor is it shades of grey, it is a spectrum of colours filled with highs and lows. You can’t pinpoint a problem on one cause, and that’s what the writers realised and put into effect. We have Caesar, trying to stop conflict the best he can, while we have one particular individual trying to start conflict. Some characters are almost physically sick by the sight of the opposing species. They cannot overlook past the bad, and that is highlighted superbly in the movie.

When the movie finished, I had a woman say rather loudly: “Well that was predictable.” No. No, it was not. The ending ends where you would expect, but how it gets there is what is interesting.

To touch on characters, all the apes were fantastic. Full-stop. At the start of the film, I was a little worried about the special effects lacking, as a chase between computer-animated apes and deer in the opening scenes became a little fuzzy and clunky, but that was soon brushed into the corners of my mind as I was enthralled with the design of each ape. Other details were superb as well, like the dust covering the remains of humanity, signifying the decaying world of man.

All subtleties are carefully placed so that each ape can show an array of emotions extremely clearly. The careful twinge of a frown can instantly show such complexity as a deep loathing behind a mask of acceptance. Now the apes can talk to each other a little more, the gradual disuse of sign language can be seen throughout the film, to be replaced by body language, facial expressions and (finally!) vocal delivery.

The humans were not as impressive. I didn’t feel for the human protagonists, but they all interacted with the apes well. The film focuses on the apes, and the makers know that they are what the audience wants to see. However, I want to give a roaring applause to Gary Oldman. There was a very touching moment when he manages to get his iPad to work, and the audience is able to gain an insight into his life, and my goodness is it a tragic reveal.

To say something bad about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is hard. I could say that the humans were undeveloped, but that would be a lie. The main ones had pasts, but it’s obvious the audience doesn’t care. We are here for the apes. Every scene where the humans had heart-to-hearts, I was just waiting for the apes to come back again. It’s clear that the production team didn’t skimp out on the apes’ screen time. They are practically in every scene.

Comparing it to the previous film, I would say the latter bests its predecessor. While the prequel to Dawn did better with the relationship between the humans and apes (mostly Caesar), it was a film to set the stage so that Dawn could take flight into the horizon.

In conclusion, Dawn is a sequel that goes deeper into the reasons why the humans fell. It shows the importance of a community, the struggle to survive and the effort stops the inevitable: war. The film doesn’t paint a good and bad side but shows the characters to vary in good, evil and in-between, with giving each character a reasonable motive to be doing what they choose to do. With fast-paced, gritty action, stunning special effects and a few stirring moments, Dawn is a film that ticks all the boxes, that anyone can watch and be entertained with. What can I say? It’s brilliant. Full-stop.

I’m pretty pleased with this Pick. I want to do something negative sometime soon, but not sure on what. I will let you all know soon.


Oh, and to the couple next to me who were chatting all the way through. IT’S CALLED WHISPERING!