On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes


2014/ USA

Director: Matt Reeves

Starring: Andy Serkis, Tony Kebbell, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smitt- McPhee

Deep within the bowels of a post-apocalyptic San Francisco what little that remains of the human race has begun to feel the cold of winter edging in. Fuel is at a low and little power remains to sustain life in the long term. The only hope for human survival is to resurrect an old Hydro- Electric dam to reignite the cities power supply. High above the city in the Muir Woods Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his now expanded society of Apes, Gorillas and Orang-utans have constructed a fragile utopia amongst the trees. They speak to each other, they have installed democracy and they love but they are still learning the pitfalls of evolution as human desires such as hatred, greed and lust begin to take hold. Ten years after the Battle on The Golden Gate Bridge in Rise of the Planet of the Apes human beings have all but been exterminated by a Simian Flu that then led to Nuclear War. The Apes have thrived, establishing a fledgling nation as they begin to build on their unnatural accelerated evolution.

The embers have begun to smoulder. Home it seems, for both sides, is balanced on a knife edge. The events of this sequel are sparked into life by a chance encounter as a small band of humans, led by activist Malcolm (Jason Clarke), venture into Ape territory in a last ditch bid to save their home from falling to chaos. Thus begins an uneasy relationship as Caesar attempts to lead by example to protect his family, he assists the humans and does not attack them. Neither side wants war but on both sides there are instigators that disagree with their leader’s ambitions of peace. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) begins to build a stock pile of weapons and ammunition for an assault on the Apes whilst the sinister Bonobo Koba (Tony Kebbell) plots mutiny against his ruler.

Family is the overarching framework that director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) uses here to show how the divide between Human and Ape is very slim.  Although aesthetically they are stark opposites on a base level both societies are operating on the same beliefs. Neither wants to be eliminated but both are willing to pay the ultimate price for survival. Caesar and Malcolm are mirror images, both strong leaders with honest intentions who have young families to protect. It’s almost inevitable that conflict will at some point start, the film relies upon this for dramatic purposes but the build in tension is superbly executed here. Reeves doesn’t bow to audience desires either and simply give us evil Apes attacking Humans. There are evils on both sides but the beauty of this film as a summer blockbuster is that it’s hard to point the finger of blame at any one individual. Dreyfus is doing what any person would do and protecting himself when he is threatened. Koba has been mistreated by humans his entire life, as Caesar states late in the film “Koba only learnt hate from humans”.

The film is beautifully assembled with Reeves’ use of innovative Motion Capture making the Apes we see on screen become ever more believable throughout the run time. We also for the vast majority focus on the Apes rather than the Humans. We see the way they interact and how their actions become ever more human as events unfold. It’s a refreshing take on the dystopian tale of humanity failing to survive its own innovations. The flu that wiped out the world’s population was designed in a lab and Koba, a former test-lab monkey, takes his place as presider of a kind of “hell-on-earth” as he makes a play for power.

Andy Serkis has also never been better in a Motion Capture suit, this performance, along with his King- Kong really establishes him as King of the Apes and is the key performance drives the film forward. A weaker actor would have caused the whole charade to fail.

The future of this franchise is bright, as the sun rises at the film’s end we can see a narrative having firmly retraced some of its old steps that now has the chance to venture onto new ground. If Rise was a remake of Conquest and Dawn a remake of Battle then the next instalment will be an altogether new affair narrative- wise. What Reeves, or whoever may takeover, will need to do with the next instalment is join the dots to the story we all know and love. At some point Caesar will rule the world but along the way the intelligent plotting first started by Rupert Wyatt and then carried over by Matt Reeves must be adhered to. Caesar is not the villain, he is our creation. If this future vision of earth is truly going to become The Planet of the Apes it must be done in a way that carries on the intriguing and complex nature that this series of films has been built upon.

– Josh Senior


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