2014 really is shaping up to be the year of the sequel. We’ve seen the equivalent of the Godfather Part 2 and Empire Strikes Back in comedy and superhero with 22 Jump Street and Days of Future Past. But now we are faced with a Science Fiction sequel that is also a remake. Excluding Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was probably the film I was looking forward to most of all this year for two reasons. We’ve now reached a very rare stage where there are two remakes of the same film in the space of less than ten years. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake (horrible and thankfully forgettable) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes which was stunning, I was completely blown away by the visuals and the emotional depth, everything seemed to work. And there was plenty of room for expansion so I was very pleased when a sequel was announced.
Some will argue that this is not a remake, it is a prequel. But those of you who are familiar with the original franchise will know it is a reboot based upon Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. That brings me on to my second point as this latest films is based upon Battle for the Planet of the Apes which is certainly the worst film of the franchise (apart from Burton’s, sorry Tim). So if they can successfully remake this then I have very high hopes for this reboot series.
So, if you can keep up with all of these …of the Apes titles (we’re on Dawn of by now) I will state my opinion instantly. This is absolutely brilliant. As we follow the struggle between the human and Ape colonies that teeter on the edge of war yet still have one last chance for peace, both still face internal problems within. The threat of a conflict would mean disaster for both species, so naturally we want to avoid it, and that is a fact that we are constantly reminded of. This creates fantastic amounts of tension throughout. They are consistent and repeatedly effective on the same level as Jaws or Psycho, it really is that good. There are some moments of relief, my heart needed them, and it just further emphasises the action and intolerance of this constant paranoia felt by the central characters. A standoff between Caesar and the humans, the supreme Ape trying desperately to explain his intentions for peace to distrusting enemies as the Apes that follow begin to doubt their leader is just one terrific example from this two hour thriller.
It also does the absolute best thing a sequel can do, goes to the next level for scope and exploration into the world established. The true extent of the carnage caused in Rise is clearly shown and the stakes have never been higher for both sides. Like the previous film it expertly displays the sympathetic and deplorable sides of both species. The emotional depth of every character, displayed by two strikingly different yet similar tribes is not left out for a single second. This another reason why you feel so tense over a potential war because you feel the emotions of both species, and a war would result in annihilation for one or both.]
The character interaction is also breathtakingly seamless. I mean of course the expert motion capture technology that makes the Apes. It is truly stunning, this could be the first time that motion capture is truly viewed in the same light as live action. Gary Oldman is fantastic (as ever) but the true star of this film is Andy Serkis. His ability to make these inhuman creatures look so, well human through his movements, remembering that he will not be able to look back on his own acting as a finished product until it is too late to redo them is absolutely astonishing.
The intelligence, patience and engagement is highly admirable in the film. Similarly to Rise, Dawn is refreshingly serious for a film about monkeys taking over Earth. Don’t panic though, it also manages to avoid falling ill with Nolan syndrome, there are great moments of fun and enjoyment, a nice relief of tension. The plot runs smoothly, with acting and effects to match it. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is truly the best science fiction sequel since… there are too many good ones to make an effective point, you get the idea anyway, it’s chest-pounding-inducing brilliance.