Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to the 2011 reboot of a science fiction cult classic. The last film was all about testing a cure for Alzheimer's on primates while James Franco's character nurtured a genius ape named Caesar. The cure, refined with a virus strain, went viral and so the end credits demonstrated the world wide spread of the Simian Flu.
Damn dirty apes
A decade has elapsed and the world has changed—James Franco's character is nowhere to be found (some may argue this is a good thing …). The human population has wasted away while the apes roam in packs. The film focuses on the city-woods dichotomy, specifically the human survivors in San Francisco and the apes governed by Caesar (Andy Serkis) based in the Muir Woods.
The gradual collapse of Western civilisation is apparent. The cityscape has decayed, the streets are quiet and bushes and trees and vines have overgrown to symbolise the growing expanse of the impending ape uprising.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a tragedy about the actions of well-meaning individuals in a post-apocalyptic context where war is inevitable.
Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) leads the San Francisco gathering of human survivors and tasks the mob with securing a power station in ape territory.
Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his entourage develop a respectable rapport with Caesar as they engage in their mission to restore electricity for the people back in San Francisco.
While there is a plan to ensure mutual cooperation between human and ape, both sides have their own bad eggs that spoil the perfect recipe for peace. The writing is tight and those familiar with Rise of the Planet of the Apes will understand the motivations of the key ape players in the mix.
The conflict escalates in very clever ways. The trailer shows an early scene where Caesar's pack surrounds the front of the San Francisco compound. This is just a teaser of the impending battle where we witness apes on horseback brandishing rifles.
Thankfully, these scenes were brilliant instead of deferring to cheesy dialogue and colonial us-versus-them rhetoric.
The eye before the storm
By the end of this journey the stakes are set and we feel for these characters. Instead of rooting for the humans to partake in a genocide action we prematurely mourn for the losses to come—both ape and human alike.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes honours the source material without feeling the need to tell a radical story for the sake of a reboot. Characterisation was satisfying enough for me. The future of this franchise is promising.