God Loves, Primates Kill – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review
Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprise hit for most people. Despite critical and box-office success, its voice was drowned out by other summer blockbusters and franchises. It remains criminally underrated to this day. However, it did succeed in registering Rupert Wyatt within the public’s radar. So imagine my anxiety when he dropped out of the sequel and was replaced by Matt Reeves. Sure, I liked Cloverfield but I always felt it was more of Abrams’ film. The only assurance I had from Reeves doing the sequel was that it would have spectacular set-pieces. Thankfully, my anxieties were abated.
Like a cosmic joke, the 2nd film of the rebooted series surprises us all once AGAIN on its finesse and depth. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sweeping epic that explores the nature of human conflict. It goes through every nook and cranny to understand the origins and futility of war.
The film begins with the aftermath of the first. It displays vignettes and news footage of a global pandemic that nearly wipes out human civilization. San Francisco urbanity is replaced with a lush post-apocalyptic setting. Trees and shrubs grow where concrete used to be. On one side of the bridge, are the apes. They live as an honorable community under Caesar. They are self-reliant and self-assured of their newfound freedom. On the other side, lie the humans. They are desperate and paranoid. Years of panic and destruction can be seen on their faces. Both communities, however, share a sense of hope for their respective race’s future.
The most astonishing thing about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was its cast of characters. The apes really shine through and are clearly the stars of this installment. Each of them is given a distinct personality and philosophical background so that one can separate them from the others. Andy Serkis’ impeccable acting continues to be magnified by the impressive special effects. No one brings a better sense of gravitas through motion capture acting than him. Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Gary Oldman provide solid supporting roles.
As far as direction goes, Matt Reeves manages to blend spectacle with small character moments seamlessly. The characters and communities are properly developed amidst the escalating tension. Through their struggle, we see all the facets of human including prejudice, betrayal, and mistrust. His set-pieces are impressive and, contrary to the current trend, the camera actually lingers on the chaos. It effectively renders the casualties of battle scenes not as mere cannon fodder but as unfortunate victims of hate and misunderstanding.
All in all, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes remains a rare gem during this particular film season. It manages to be both grand and intimate in its narrative. It eschews the usual exposition and pseudo-scientific explanations to give us something better; an allegory on the follies of human nature. Hopefully, this reinvigorated series won’t be criminally underrated for long.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5