Both an exciting action movie and an intelligent moral fable, the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is another superior slice of sci-fi fantasy. Where the previous film explored how the apes got their super-intelligence, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows what happens when they start flexing their muscles.
The setting is ten years after the events of Rise and in the interim humanity has been nearly wiped out by an outbreak of the simian flu triggered, you will recall, by scientist James Franco’s gene therapy experiments.
Caesar (Andy Serkis), the chimp raised by Franco, is now the leader of a tribe of sapient apes living in the forests near San Francisco, but he finds his rule challenged by the militant Koba (Toby Kebbell) when the apes come into conflict with a band of human survivors living in the nearby city.
The storyline has echoes of 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the fifth and final film of the original Apes cycle. Surprisingly, when war breaks out following human efforts to re-start a hydroelectric dam, the viewer is more likely to end up rooting for the apes.
There are good and bad elements on both sides, ranging from the heroic Caesar to the vengeful Koba among the apes, and from Jason Clarke’s pacifist Malcolm to Gary Oldman’s militaristic Dreyfus among the humans.
But the apes have more complex characters than their human counterparts, and thanks to the stunning motion-capture performances by the likes of Serkis and Kebbell their acting is better, too.
Certificate 12. Runtime 125 mins. Director Matt Reeves.
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