Reviewed: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2014)

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Directed by: Matt Reeves

Starring Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbell, Kobi Smit-McPhee, Keri Russell

Studio : 20th Century Fox

With a new director (Matt Reeves replacing Rupert Wyatt) and new plot mechanics (scenario instead of a character driven narrative), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to progress the foundations of Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ into a worthwhile sequel that broadens the cinematic landscape of the entire franchise. With another standout performance in a motion capture suit by the talented Andy Serkis, and a departure from the personal narratives that were the focus of the earlier film, this sequel manages to build upon the success of the first relaunch while also scripting its own individuality within the series as a whole.

The entire narrative seems to have been enhance within Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with less focus given to the science based aspects that established the relaunched franchise. As such the film is given a freedom to explore the fictional side of the science fiction genre, with the narrative used to build the filmic world as well as develop upon already established characters. Where the earlier film balanced its narrative between the human and ape continent of its plot, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is solely Caesar driven. Being less concerned about the human characters that feature, except those that build into the main protagonists storyline, the film is allowed a chance to highlight the exploits of enthralling, and well developed fantasy characters.

Where the earlier production established the characters and build audience engrossment, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has the simpler task of building into the paths already established. Through out the entire duration of the film, there is a constant focus on the conflict of the two leading ape characters (Caesar and Kuba) and their juxtaposed individual motives. Through highlighting this contrast in character identity – and also in expanding the wider mythos – the sequel manages to explore key themes. All of the plots progression leads to the final third of the film, where the action is accelerated into a enthralling sequence that creates implications for the further sequels to come.

As Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  is first and foremost a Caesar driven production, Andy Serkis is given a much larger responsibility within this film to deliver upon the character. Thankfully, his performance in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the standout within a ensemble cast, and as such has transversed into this production also. Brilliant in every scene that he features, the British actor manages to bring a level of empathy to the role – which builds further engrossment into the role of Caesar. Toby Kebbell is tasked with conveying a more animalistic and aggressive motion capture character as the malicious Koba. A contrast to the simpler movement of the films lead, Kebbell opts to use the apes persona as a means to develop a high level of threat. With two expert motion capture performances driving the film forward, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes utilised two beautifully rendered CGI creations that compliment the level of performance that is captured.

Unlike the earlier film, humans take a back seat in the development of the various narrative strands. This means that for the most part, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes uses human characters to help build into the apes storyline. Jason Clarke, as Malcolm, is the films focus point with regard to the human contingent – and is given the most development within this film. With his role needing a more gritty portrayal than Franco’s scientist character, Clarke manages to bring a humanity to his family man surviver. Gary Oldman, as the film most recognisable star, is gravely underused in the film – with his performance confined to a supporting role with very little given to him to actually do.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great piece of technical cinema, a masterpiece in CGI achievement, and a progression on the industry standard of computer aided development. With two completely realised digital creations, each performed expertly by two talented actors, the film is able to deliver upon the foundation laid out in the earlier film within the franchise. Although aspects of the plot can be seen as heavily expositional, the film is seen to be crafted to an immense quality in almost every regard. Through switching to another director, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to bring a fresh feel into a film that is well paced and exciting. 

Plot 4

Acting 4

Direction 5

Retrospect 3

Overall 4

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