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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (3D)
DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves
CAST: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee
CLASSICATION: 10-12 PG LV
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
WHEN going to watch a movie where the main stars are a new generation of evolved apes with a human-like disposition, the first rule of thumb is: you have to suspend your belief. Otherwise, you are not going to enjoy Matt Reeves’ post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
And, to his credit, he does a spectacular job – not so much with the 3D aspect, though. But go in a cynic and you are going to walk out making idiotic comments like I experienced from one so-called critic exiting the pre-screening of this movie. I was too polite to say I didn’t think said individual was the target market and that perhaps sticking to fulfilling movies of the same ilk as The Grand Budapest Hotel might be a safer bet in future.
Unlike its predecessor, Rise of the Planet Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is grittier, laden with action, anda splattering of comedic moments. It effortlessly reels viewers into this fictional universe where a society of evolved apes live in a lush forest on the outskirts of San Francisco.
A middle-aged Caesar (Serkis) wisely leads the colony, who believe humans were wiped out by the ALZ-113 virus. Their blissful existence, however, is shattered when they stumble across a group of humans in their midst and the situation grows tense when a trigger-happy human named Carver shoots one of the apes.
The incident causes serious friction between Caesar and his friend Koba (Toby Kebbell), who harbours serious resentment against humans after being tortured through their experiments. Believing Caesar “loves humans more than apes”, he starts causing discord in camp and then goes rogue to expose the humans as a threat to their existence. More so, after Caesar agrees to allow Malcolm (Clarke) and his crew access to a river dam so they can restore their city’s power.
Meanwhile, Caesar’s son River, still feeling defeated and somewhat humiliated from his earlier fight with a grizzly bear, naively follows Koba on his war path, which sets off a chain of events from which there is no coming back for the apes.
In this tale, the humans are, for the better part, the supporting cast.
Reeves handles the various relationships with commendable dexterity as he magnifies the compassion and sincerity shared between Malcolm and Caesar, building a trust and friendship akin to the one he shared with Dr Will Rodman, and unmasks the deception and betrayal of Koba, who goes renegade.
Juggling so many characters is no easy feat, but the director pulls it off. He creates mesmerising heart-warming moments when we see Caesar with his newborn son, sick wife Cornelia and rebellious son. He juxtaposes their life with that of Malcolm, former nurse Ellie (Russell) and his teenage son Alexander – all of whom have suffered personal loses – as they try to be there for each other.
Amid the drama, he also delivers several comic moments with Koba monkeying around as a ruse to overpower the humans.
The battle that ensues is the epic stuff Hollywood is known for. Just watching this army of apes, armed with Uzis, riding horses like are they in some Western (albeit in an alternate universe), is something else. And that’s what I love about Reeves, he defies logic and dupes viewers into buying every single scene as Koba’s fury gets the better of him and Caesar proves why nobility always wins the battle – sadly, not the war, in this case.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (3D) is fast-paced, fascinating, beautifully shot and an adventurous roller-coaster ride. In many ways, Reeves’ draws parallels between the humans and apes. Once again, I reiterate – it isn’t a thinking movie.
If you liked the original Planet of the Apes series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla or Jurassic Park you will enjoy this.