In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.
The follow up to one of the surprise hits of 2011, ‘Dawn’ picks up 10 years after the events of ‘Rise’ and builds on the mythology of the franchise by delving into the apes in greater detail. This is a solid sequel and an excellent film that makes up for what the story lacks in originality with terrific acting and an undeniable tension throughout. We last saw Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his gang of apes escaping into the forest past the Golden Gate Bridge 10 years ago, and when we join them now they have advanced significantly, building their own society and starting to speak small bits of English. The humans on the other hand, have been ravaged by simian flu, and the survivors are camped up in a small colony within San Francisco, with no power and limited basic amenities.
The story takes its time to get going, as we’re introduced to new human characters (Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman the leads), and the apes are fleshed out further (particularly Toby Kebbell’s Koba). We can see that the apes and humans are mostly leaving each other alone, but it’s a tense situation and small bursts of violence threaten to result in all out war. Malcolm (Clarke) attempts to defuse the situation, whilst his fellow humans plot an attack, and he starts to gradually bond with Caesar. There are some powerful moments between the two characters although it lacks the emotional heft of the relationship between the younger Caesar and John Lithgow’s character in ‘Rise’.
One of the interesting aspects that this film explores is that 10 years down the line, conflicts start to appear between the apes themselves, with the human hating Koba challenging the more reasoned Caesar’s rule. This focus kicks off the second part of the film, when the tense atmosphere breaks out into something more severe as Koba starts to win his fellow apes over. The film raises many themes throughout, of conflict, family and leadership, and successfully invests the viewer in both the fate of the apes and the fate of the humans. It’s incredibly well done, and it all comes together to maintain the sustained tension throughout a 2 hour + film.
One of the groundbreaking aspects of the first film was the extensive use of motion capture technology, and this is even more frequent in this film as we spend more time in the apes company. The apes look frighteningly realistic and it’s impossible to underestimate the outstanding work actors such as Serkis and Kebbell are doing in capturing the apes every subtle movement. Another subtle change that adds to the experience is the gradual change in Caesar and the rest of the apes to slowly start to appear more human, both in appearance and actions throughout the film. The film is a real triumph of how acting and technology can come together nowadays to create something truly groundbreaking.
This is an excellent sequel that builds on the conflict between the apes and humans, whilst not forgetting the emotional pull that drove the first film forward. Looking forward to the next film in the series!
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo and Gary Oldman