Reviews, Science Fiction

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Copyright © 2014 by 20th Century Fox

It has been ten years since the spread of the ALZ-113 virus wiped out the majority of human life form, leaving the intelligently enhanced ape community to live in the Muir Woods led by Caesar (Andy Serkis). Their habitat is discovered by a group of humans who are immune to the virus. Malcolm (Jason Clarke), the group’s leader explains to Caesar about their need for long-term power to sustain the city which they are currently dwelling. A hydroelectric dam that is situated in the apes’ territory is the key to their survival. The humans are allowed to repair the dam but Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s second in command fears a forthcoming assault from their temporary visitors and launches an offensive strike first, culminating to a war that will define who is the stronger species.

Now this is what I am talking about! A blockbuster with brains and plenty of brawn to boot. After Tim Burton’s 2001 remake underperformed due to an uneven tone and did not offer anything new, it appears that hope for any future sequels seems unlikely. Hooray for Fox; it took a chance on Rick Jaffa’s original idea to incorporate into its existing canon and rebooted this fading franchise with the extremely enjoyable and thought-provoking ‘Rise’. One of the surprising breakout hits of summer 2011 and further sealing Serkis’ career as the go-to guy for motion capture performance.

Already immortalising two other unforgettable screen presence i.e. Gollum and King Kong, Serkis can proudly include Caesar as his finest accomplishment thus far. More heroic than the mighty ape and less tragic than the wretched one, ‘Rise’ gives us a glimpse to his rise as champion for his less privilege simian friends. In this excellent follow up, the leader is seen as authoritarian but never forsakes the peace he so tightly clings on for his colony after a decade of uniting and managing a growing population of vastly evolved primates.

The arrival of Malcolm and the other human survivors threaten to tip the scale; the distrust on either side ranges from the diplomatic to the noticeably hostile. Serkis’ conviction derives directly from the strength of his eyes. Every word uttered and action taken are believably understated with hints of supremacy to keep his followers in check. Like an untreated wound, the disagreements between Caesar and Koba are left to fester and the toxicity comes at a costly price. The brutality of the two warriors is unflinchingly disturbing that filtering should be exercise appropriately.

Caution to those who are easily irked by graphic violence, it could be a little too hot for some to handle in the final act of the film where an all-out war is orchestrated by Koba against the humans while Caesar is simultaneously trying to regain control over the coup that has severely fractured his monarchy. The disfigured bonobo is driven mad for his hatred towards men and Kebbell’s gruff and unpolished mannerisms fit Koba to a tee. The human players are also game with their limited token roles, most notably Clarke who has been raking in an impressive list of movies e.g. ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’, ‘Public Enemies’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

Taking over from James Franco as the kindly patriarch to his motley crew, Clarke is your everyman who is put in an extraordinary position by an uneven level playing field. In contrast to his compassionate nature, we are pummeled with the fact that people like Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) will always exist to purge any chance for peace. Only difference here is that we are not pandered into rooting for a particular side but rather for the characters from both sides who have worked so hard to prevent the dawning of such fate.

Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language