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Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (12A)

Directed by: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis (MoCap), Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman

Ten Years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes mankind, plagued by the man made simian flu virus, is on the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, having escaped to the woods surrounding San Francisco, Caesar and the group of genetically enhanced apes have built a home and a community and number in the thousands. When a small community of humans, unaware of the apes’ existence, venture into the woods to re-activate an abandoned dam to restore power to the city, the two groups meet and seeds of fear and distrust are sown, setting them on a path to war.

I’ve always found the concept of the whole Planet of the Apes franchise to be a really interesting one and the way that this new rebooted series (Rise and Dawn – too many “of the” to put the names in full) is telling the story from the other side (Movies up to this point have dealt with human astronauts landing on earth generations after the events detailed in the reboot) is something I really love about it. I can’t fault the way the plot of Dawn is set up either, it flows logically and ties off loose ends nicely. No James Franco this time around, leaving the viewer to assume he is one of the billions who have died from the simian flu. Instead, the story starts focussing on the thriving ape community, with a group employing a sophisticated hunting tactic to catch a herd of deer in the woods. As a special effects movie, you can see why Dawn started here. The sequence shows off the remarkable level of detail in the CGI used. From a visual point of view, I can’t find a single fault. The Apes were so realistic that suspension of disbelief wasn’t broken for a single moment.

We meet the humans when a small group encounter two apes on patrol and, when frightened one of the humans shoots and wounds one of the apes. It’s from this point the character development gets a little bit clumsy. There’s not a lot I can put my finger on that makes it this way, that’s just the way it feels. One thing’s for sure, I couldn’t tell you, without looking at IMDB any of the human characters’ names. The apes, on the other hand, those characters developed just fine with distinct, memorable characters becoming evident very early on.

I have to mention this now because I can’t let it slide any longer. After three Dark Knight films and, I’m sure others that I don’t recall, why in the nine fucks do writers/directors insist on getting Gary Oldman to play an American!? I mean, he’s a fine actor, one of my favourites, but the man can’t do a convincing American accent. It’s not even like the kind of accent you get when an American has lived in England for a while either. He over-pronounces Rs in words that don’t even have them, like “calm” and “idea”. In Dawn, it makes an already poor character even less believable. If you want an american character, hire an american actor, or at least hire a foreign actor who has a proven track record for great American accents like Colin Farrell. Oldman’s isn’t quite as bad as Jason Statham’s but it’s close.

…come to think of it, Ray Winstone can’t do one to save his life either.

Anyway, I digress. Should you see Dawn? Yeah, I’d recommend it for sure. The one thing I will suggest is that you re-familiarise yourself with Rise first, just to properly set the scene. There are bits in Dawn that won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t seen Rise. All in all it’s a tidy little movie with some good suspense and, as I said, pretty incredible CGI and MoCap work. What it also does is set the scene for what is going to be a pretty epic third part to the trilogy.

Verdict: 3.5/5

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