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Published July 21st 2014
Caesar (Andy Serkis) (Image copyright & courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
I have to be honest - prior to the groundbreaking Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011 - directed by Rupert Wyatt), I had not been impressed by previous Planet of the Apes movies and television series.
Marketed as an 'origin story for a new series of films' Rise of the Planet of the Apes set the bar high for its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which was internationally released in July 2014.
Having recently seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes on television and being totally mind blown by the ground-breaking use of on-location motion and performance capture work for the simian characters, we chose to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 3D.
The movie is fast tracked 10 years on from when Caesar and his genetically and intellectually enhanced simian friends released themselves and relocated to the wilds of San Francisco's redwood forest.
It soon becomes apparent the human species has been decimated world-wide as a result of the highly contagious and artificially created ALZ-113 retrovirus which ultimately became known as the Simian Flu (originating from Gen-sys Laboratories and designed to cure Alzheimer's disease through testing on apes).
The colony of apes is led by chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis - best known as Gollum in the Hobbit) who has integrity and wisdom of a true leader. Caesar's wildcard is Koba (Toby Kebball - Wrath of the Titans), a mentally and physically damaged bonobo who quite rightfully hates and mistrusts humans.
Koba (Toby Kebball) (Image copyright & courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
Over on the city side of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is charismatic leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and his faithful colony of human survivors (assumed to have survived due to their resistance to the Simian Flu).
Among the 'human' cast are Australian actors Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), playing a lead role as Malcolm and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), as Malcolm's son, Alexander. They bring a natural and genuine quality of compassion to their roles.
In search of an ongoing power supply, the human colony need access to the hydroelectric dam which is held fast within the apes territory. It's up to Malcolm and his small working party to earn the apes trust and cooperation in securing power from the dam.
This movie caused us to reflect on our own humanity and evolution. It made us realise that it is possible for such evolution to begin again. The village of the apes really demonstrated this with Caesar's wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) surrounded by a caring community of female apes adorned with tribal style head pieces whilst she gave birth to her second offspring.
As one of Malcolm's party comments "you know the scary thing about them, they don't need power, lights, heat - nothing... that's their advantage - that's what makes them stronger..."
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes demonstrates how a fragile peace between two opposing sides can be easily shattered by corruption and collusion.
Koba truly sent chills down our spines with his brutal intellectual wit and physical strength. Here's where the viewer will witness motion and performance capture at its best, with Toby Kebball (as Koba) seemlessly assuming a simian's natural motions (and emotions) whilst skillfully wreaking revenge.
Admittedly there are elements from previous Planet of the Apes movies/series (apes on horseback; humans imprisoned in cages) but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes remains thought-provoking. In my mind, Rise of the Planet of the Apes resonates deeper with me as a true original, for what will now be a number of sequels.
The movie is darker and heavier going than its predecessor, with a run time of 130 minutes (Rise of the Planet of the Apes was 105 minutes). A third instalment has reportedly been 'green lit', with Matt Reeves set to direct again (for release in July 2016).