One Last Chance For Peace
Set ten years after the outbreak of the virus at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the human population has dissipated down to a low percentage of survivors. Meanwhile, Caesar’s [Serkis] colony of apes is slowly thriving in peace, the next generation are learning the values of their leader and life carries on harmoniously. And yet, Caesar worries that despite not seeing humans for at least two years, they are more dangerous when at their most desperate. One day, two young apes stumble across a man who panics and shoots one of the apes. We soon learn that the man is accompanied by a group of survivors who are residing in the ruins of San Francisco, who are trying to restore power to the hydro-generator, deep in ape territory. The co-leaders of this group are the level headed Malcolm [Clarke] and the ex-military man, Dreyfus [Oldman] both of whom want what’s best for their colony but primarily operate under the idea that the second humans lose power, they will turn on each other. As a show of strength, Caesar descends on the human colony and explains that the apes have no intention of going to war but will do so if necessary. The reality of a talking, horse-riding ape unnerves the populace and Malcolm agrees to spend time among the apes to simply get the generator back online. But, as things always do, matters escalate, people die and paranoia and fear overtake logic and reason.
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was a solid, clever and entertaining reboot/prequel. It was treated with respect and maturity and therefore graced us with a wonderful story; on top of that, the state of the art visuals were spectacular and Andy Serkis’ performance moved audiences. Amazingly, this film goes four or five steps further. It’s obvious that Matt Reeves is a Planet Of The Apes fan. The story focuses heavily on the apes’ perspective (probably 70/30) and explores all characters and personalities on both sides. The fact that people who aren’t Planet Of The Apes fans are enjoying it, is down to the simple relatable themes of family, trust and survival. The story is compelling, the visuals are above and beyond what we’re used to and the characterisation is exceptional. Case in point, this movie does not have a villain. There are certainly two clear antagonists in the form of Koba [Kebbell], Caesar’s second in command and the mistrustful Carver [Kirk Acevedo] but neither of them are black-and-white villains. Koba, having been experimented on for years, knows nothing but hatred and resentment, Carver, having lost his family like so many others, blames the apes due to the virus being dubbed ‘Simian Flu’. But arguably, they are both simply victims who cannot move on from their issues. This non-stereotypical exploration of characters ensures that audiences have divided opinions and what should be a simple ‘Us Vs Them’ becomes an analysis of fear, misinformation and distrust.
The human aspect is remarkably well done, utilising tiny scenes to get across incredibly important plot points and personal developments. Any ham-fisted director can linger on an emotionally manipulative moment but it takes a very clever individual to manipulate the audience without them even realising what’s happening. But no matter how good the human element is, this film is an Apes movie and it’s really their story. Enter Serkis, Kebbell and a host of incredibly talented and under-appreciated actors and artists. Serkis is one of the most underrated character actors working today, he’s essentially the modern day Lon Chaney. The levels of intensity and emotional outpouring present in just his face and posture is astounding. Enter Toby Kebbell, an actor whom I have always held in high regard. He voices the role of Koba (who appeared in Rise) and matches Serkis’ wonderful ability with his own. At times I could see both these actors’ faces come through the CGI performance and it’s a surreal moment – it’s sort of like recognising a childhood friend that you haven’t seen in twenty years; the features are almost unrecognisable but the movements are undeniable.
The sound design is great and mixes the feel of the forest and the deserted city streets but a special mention needs to be made regarding Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score. Giacchino has already proved he is more than capable of delivering an array of styles and themes but it was actually his monster inspired epic, ‘Roar’ for Cloverfield which really highlighted to me how much he understands the concept of genre appropriate melodies. With that same expertise, he has created something contemporary and primal but very reminiscent and indicative of the bombastic scores of the late 1960’s. All-in-all, this is a very mature, well-rounded release delivered by an individual who clearly knows, loves and respects the source material enough to continue and expand the universe without unnecessarily cannibalising or regurgitating the original.
18th July 2014
The Scene To Look Out For:
There are so many great and powerful moments in this movie, it feels a little cruel to expose them. Instead, I’d like to highlight something that appeals to me greatly as a critic and filmmaker. The use of symmetry onscreen and narratively is always a sign of a well thought out project. Something I noticed, which really startles the audience (for different reasons), is the fact the film opens and closes with the same image. Staring straight into the eyes of the lead character. Everything that’s come before, everything that lies on the horizon, the future of his family and group, all contained within those eyes, presented under an extreme close-up. Striking stuff.
There are some fantastic performances here but it would be impossible to highlight anyone other than Serkis or Kebbell. The two play off each other with great ease but display and underlying animalistic tension throughout. Things we try to subtly capture in human performances but lack the primal setting to convey it. No doubt people will assume it’s just computer animation and forget there are in fact actors romping around the set, rather than coldly delivering lines in a sound studio – which is a damn shame.
“From humans. Koba only learned hate. Nothing else”
In A Few Words:
“As far as sequels/prequels go, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a glorious example of how they can build upon and surpass everything that came before them”