Last week I blogged that I was “pant wettingly” excited about this film. It didn’t disappoint!
In 2011, the classic sci-fi series was rebooted with the Rise of the Planet of Apes. It was the story of a scientist who while trying to cure Alzheimer’s creates a race of superintelligent apes and unleashes a virus that decimates humanity. Dawn is set a decade after the Rise. While human civilization has all but collapsed, the apes have built their own society in the hills around San Francisco. When this new community comes into contact with plague survivors it becomes apparent that on both sides there are those looking to start a war. As this all plays out it also becomes obvious to the audience that they are watching the smartest and most engaging blockbuster since the Dark Knight. Here are some of the reasons it is so great: 1. The Apes When Andy Serkis first donned face dots and spandex to play Gollum, he had to be on a sound studio rather than with the others actors. Now a little over a decade later it’s possible to shoot armies of startlingly realistic apes on location. The filmmakers use this ability to put vast numbers of apes on screen to show us a fully functioning society: we go on hunt with them, see them building and even see ape classrooms. It is one of the most convincing sci-fi worlds I have seen in a long time. 2. The opening montage It’s a really clever way to start the film and recap the events of the Rise. Through some clever editing we get the chilling sound of actual politicians and newsreaders responding to the virus sweeping the world. 3. Andy Serkis/Caesar I raved about Serkis last week and I am going to do it. You absolutely believe he has the charisma to be a revolutionary leader and father of a new civilisation. 4. Toby Kebbell/Koba As a contrast to the nobility of Caesar, we have Koba: a chimp traumatised by having been experimented on by humans and therefore unable to imagine living in peace with them. It’s a performance that is simultaneously affecting and unsettling. It’s going to make anyone who – like me – supports animal testing feel queasy: I know I can explain why it’s right but I’m just not sure I could ever explain that to an animal that had been experimented on! 5. Action The Dawn is a sci-fi drama not an action film. That notwithstanding the action scenes are excellent. From the opening scene of the apes hunting to Kobar and Caesar’s brutal final duel they are all stunning. 6. War and Peace As I write this Israeli troops and Hamas fighters are clashing in Gaza and killing dozens of civilians in the process. Apes and humans are a pretty good metaphor for that or any number of conflicts. We see how easily suspicion spreads, how what seem like sensible precautions to one side can seem menacing to another and how easily a handful of people bent on conflict can drag their societies down that path. Verdict: 9/10 –This is a magnificent movie with a classic hero, a memorable villain, awe inspiring set pieces and smart things to say. In short, believe the hype!