Writer: Casey Chong
Overall: 4.0 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 4.0 Out of 5
Effects: 5.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 5.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes"
The resurrected "Planet Of The Apes" franchise was in the good hands of director Rupert Wyatt when he made "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" back in 2011. The result was a better-than-expected reboot/prequel that made a lot of bananas (money, that is) at the box office. Since "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" had set a high benchmark that surpassed many expectations, it's certainly interesting to see whether the much-anticipated sequel of "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" manages to live up with the promise that the first movie had successfully accomplished earlier. After all, fulfilling the same standards or perhaps achieving a higher level for a sequel is never an easy task for any director, but replacement director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield", "Let Me In") is capable enough to embrace that challenge and delivers most of the promises.
Set 10 years after the events of the first movie where mankind is almost wiped out by the ALZ-113 global virus, the genetically-enhanced apes' colony, led by Caesar (voiced by Andy Serkis) is now living in the forest outside San Francisco. The apes have also evolved a lot where they live in harmony with their own set of rules (e.g. communication is limited to sign languages and apes do not kill each other). Until one day when a band of human survivors, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) stumbles upon the apes in the forest during a small expedition. Instead of rebelling against the apes, all Malcolm wants is to make peace with them. While Caesar is fine with the humans-and-apes cooperation, his lieutenant, Koba (Toby Kebbell) thinks otherwise. Nevertheless, it doesn't take long before the truce is broken and war eventually breaks loose.
Although this is the first time that Matt Reeves got to handle such big-budget production of this magnitude (his previous two movies, "Cloverfield" and "Let Me In", are modestly budgeted productions), his direction remains as confident and engaging as ever. Here, he shows a subtle balance of crowd-pleasing entertainment and a genuinely heartfelt drama. This reviewer is particularly impressed the way Reeves stages his picture in an unhurried but steady pace and takes his time to develop the storyline rather than getting all crazy showing off with a barrage of special effects and loud action set-pieces that often plague most big-budget sequels released in the summer season.
Speaking of storyline, the movie is again blessed with an engrossing screenplay just like the first movie. The central conflict between apes vs. humans and particularly the internal struggle within the ape community which eventually lead to war and revolution are especially well-written. Making the story all the more dramatic experience to watch for is the excellent characters development which filled with top notch acting all around. All the human actors, including Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell, deliver fine, if unremarkable performances, but it was the motion-capture performances of the apes that steal most of the limelight. Andy Serkis easily upstages everyone here with his solid voice acting particularly the way he expresses himself through facial gestures and body language as the apes leader, Caesar. Equally captivating as well is Toby Kebbell, who gives a frighteningly grim performance as the rebellious Koba who distrusts the humans very much.
Not to forget also is the technical triumph where the motion-capture CGI animation of the apes which are far more lifelike and seamless than the one shown in the first movie. The action is also spectacular, even though a bit restrained, which is evidently shown in the climactic finale that Reeves could have gone all out staging the scene in a more exciting manner. By comparison, Rupert Wyatt did better in the first movie executing memorable action set-pieces especially in the now-legendary battle between apes and humans in the middle of San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge.
Still, Reeves deserves praise for showing great fluidity in camerawork that thankfully doesn't rely on shaky cam and rapid-fire editing to mimic a chaotic scenario. The editing is sharp, the cinematography is ace and of course, the pulse-pounding score by Michael Giacchino often evokes a sense of grandeur and dramatic aura.
Minor quibble aside, "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes" certainly deserves a place as one of the better big-budget sequels ever made that stands head and shoulder with the equally spectacular first movie. For those who wanted a summer blockbuster filled with equal brain and brawn, this movie is definitely not to be missed.
Cinema Online, 03 July 2014