The futility of sequels has always been questioned by film geeks because we are cynical that the new film might destroy the legacy created by the first. More often than we’d like, we have been proven right. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is thankfully one such event where we’re proven wrong. It sets a new benchmark for all sequels to come by assaulting us with its arsenal of seamless visual effects, motion capture, and a captivating story. Watch Rise before you go watch this. The parallels drawn from the first film and the base of Dawn‘s characters and story will be easier to interpret.
Caesar and his tribe have lived in the woods establishing a new society of harmony and peaceful co-existence. The Simian Flu which breaks out at the end of the first film has now reached a stage where the handful of living humans fear extermination. A bunch of ‘genetically immune’ survivors are left in San Francisco. They try to establish contact to find survivors on other parts of the planet but they cannot, not without power. The dam on the turf of Caesar and his tribe, a hydro-electric plant, holds the answer to the power issue and sparks off the encounters between humans and apes.
You have on screen a film about super-intelligent apes who can talk; a film classified into science fiction. When the same film slyly gets under you skin and makes you think about everything from loyalty to animal cruelty to the disorientation and division of the human society, it is difficult not to hang your jaw in disbelief and awe. The unbearably tense and the profoundly moving narration and depth of Dawn.. is only a preface of the marvelous treats it has in store as the story progresses. The astounding amount of detailing that goes into the movement and expressions of the apes fuels your sense of wonder and will not rest until you have surrendered to its crushing authority.
Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is in total control from the opening frame itself, letting us sink into the atmosphere after the Flu made it across the planet. The ambitious vision of writers Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa and Mark Bomback translates to the screen in an appropriately grand setting with a clarity where you can point out signs that further the story from a desolate street. The film goes on delivering its conceptual surprises and circumvents predictability at every turn. Without a single mistake, Reeves and his team plod along steadily to serve up a cinematic wild-ride that is not only nourishing to the intellect but to the heart, too.
Andy Serkis takes the ape called Caesar and turns him into a character you will understand, love and sympathize with. The magic of motion capture and the magic of Serkis’ undefinable portrayal work together so beautifully that it is impossible to draw a line of separation between them. Serkis makes Caesar brim with emotional vulnerability with a finesse that ought to put the human actors to shame. Caesar’s brows and the wrinkles on his face speak volumes: his softness at one point can turn into flaming anger in the next instant, and nothing can prepare you for the intricacy with which it is presented. Serkis has already conquered the motion capture world with his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings, but he is back to declare himself the king of that universe.
Toby Kebbell does a fantastic job at it as Koba, Caesar’s friend and nemesis, and will make you tremble with fear in a few scenes. Gary Oldman (Dreyfus) and Jason Clarke (Malcolm) lead the human side with a group of supporting actors who do well by the remarkable polish of the story and visual effects. There is a scene where we can see Koba and Caesar drifting apart in their opinions. Caesar wants to allow the humans to continue their ‘work’ and avoid a war, but Koba does not trust them. He points to the scars he received from the Gensys lab experiments and mumbles, “Human work.” Koba gets increasingly agitated by recalling what humans did to him, and it hits your gut with a collapsible feeling of guilt and pity; you understand from that point forth that this is no ordinary film.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is energetic, perceptive, broad and incalculably brilliant in its endeavor to tell us the story of Caesar. The word ‘epic’ has been redefined.