There is no love story. There is no humour. There is no redemption. There is no good side. There is only terror.
To fully appreciate the dynamics of the characters and a large portion of the latter third of this film you definitely should have already watchedThe Rise of the Planet of the Apes (RPA). RPA and this sequel, The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (DPA) is the parallel to the classic 1968 filmThe Planet of the Apes. This new story fits in with the events of it’s last 10 minutes. If you do want to catch up, rather watch the 2001 remake with good old Mark Wahlberg.
This second edition, DPA kicks off right after the end of RPA with Caesar, the leader and most intelligent of a series of genetically enhanced Apes, fights against the oppressive human scientists and rallies his new hoards of mistreated Apes to live in the forests outside San Fransico. In the sub-plot, the scientists who created the super Apes inadvertently let out the very same gene-based virus, but to humans it’s deadly to all but 1 in 500. The world plummets into an armageddon state, well at least from the humans’ perspective. 10 years go by and the few surviving San Franciscans are forced into making contact, with the now fortified Ape nation, in a struggle for resources.
The “Simian Virus” quick history lesson is covered with a montage in the first 4 minutes of the film so make sure you’re not late or you will be completely lost. This time gap also means that James Franco’s character (lead scientists Will Rodman who raised Caesar) sadly does not appear, so there must be a new person to hold a candle for an amicable relationship between Man and Ape and this comes from Malcolm played by Jason Clarke. He becomes the extremely brave negotiator and portrays a suitable example of how to be respectfully persuasive while absolutely petrified.
There are many characters, good and bad on both sides, and they each fill all the types of roles, but not one character acts out of their expected personality, which makes the story lack a big twist or shock. But that thought doesn’t really cross your mind as the storyline is still gripping. This is all due to the tension that is held over an impending outbreak of “gun vs. fist”. At any moment these formidable creatures could rip you into shreds yet can be taken out by a single tiny bullet. This tension comes from loads of staring, chest pushing and soft spoken single syllable sentences, it’s seriously spooky. Maybe one criticism is that the Ape sign language is not quite believable at times. There are frustrating moments when one simple sentence from either party could solve everything, but neither do it, but all of that adds to the stress levels and polarity.
This anticipated blockbuster is a technical masterpiece. It is a miracle of the human imagination, intelligence and technology. Do yourself a favour and just read up a little on Peter Jackson’s WETA; the digital visual effects studio in New Zealand. Pick any good movie in the last 10 years, that has tons of CGI, and you can bet WETA did the work. This place is responsible for “growing” the forests of James Cameron’sAvatar, “building” the 1930’s New York for King Kong and, most famously, for perfecting the character motion capture technique when shooting Lord of the Rings’s Gollum. Added to all of that there is a new type of inward facing head-mounted camera that tracks facial expressions. Those are then mapped to an Ape face construct to give the characters synthetic yet genuine, unbelievably believable, consistent physical appearances.
There is a whole new level of CGI derivation; with multiple cameras being used over the set from different angles to capture the entire scene, not just the point of views of the filming cameras themselves, to maximise the universe that artists can work with to create this visual overload. As for the auditory overload; the sound mixing is relentless. With so much going on it truly does the job of transporting you into its world with both of your senses. It’s non-stop.
There are no moments to breathe. There is no good moral-of-the-story to share. There is one single “cute” moment in the whole 130 minutes. So this is not a nice movie for the family, or a date-night movie; this is a serious no-nonsense sci-fi thriller. It is the well put together and enthralling depiction of the fragility of maintaining provincial peace, the knife-edge of holding hate vs. finding forgiveness and the self-perpetuating spiral of violence and prejudice. It also shows that there can be some kind of hope between two opposing leaders; a sort of mutual appreciation, but it’s not quite clear which will prevail in the end.