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article imageReview: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ establishes its dominance Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 11, 2014 in Entertainment
Set 10 years after the simians escaped captivity, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is an epic account of how a fragile peace between the apes and humans is revoked due to the fear and defiance of a few.
There is good and bad, regardless of race, gender, creed — or even species. There are those that strive for peace and betterment, and others who cling to hate and self-preservation at any cost. The story told in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is not new or original, but rather a reminder that trust should be earned and poisonous personalities are dangerous.
Approximately a decade after Cesar (Andy Serkis) led the ape uprising, they are shown to have created a thriving village deep in the forest free of any interference from man. This latter feat was made less complicated as most humans died due to the outbreak of an incurable virus: the simian flu. Neither species had laid eyes on the other for at least two years when a chance encounter sets in motion events that threaten to destroy everything both sides have tried so hard to protect. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) leads an envoy of his family (Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a few skilled workers to request Cesar's permission to enter his territory in order to access and restart a power station. However bad seeds in both camps repeatedly sabotage Cesar's and Malcolm's efforts to maintain peace, which ultimately results in unforgivable betrayal and possible war.
The ape lifestyle is a reflection of the human one that existed before the plague or the industrial revolution. They live in huts, hunt for food, ride horses, care for the sick, teach the young and communicate intelligently about matters. All of the apes appear to understand sign language and many of them can speak to varying degrees with Cesar being the most articulate. The evolution of their community is remarkable, but its similarity to human civilizations means the Shakespearean level of its collapse is inevitable.
Fear is shown to be a terrible disease that easily spreads with detrimental results. Koba (Toby Kebbell), Cesar's right hand, is concerned the return of man will also mean a renewal of their former way of life in captivity. He was a lab animal and is fueled by hate the moment he catches sight of the people. His human counterpart is Carver (Kirk Acevedo), who despises the entire species for being the source of the flu even though it was developed by scientists. Conversely, Cesar knows there can be good humans and foremost wants to preserve the peace they've garnered through negotiation. Similarly, Malcolm recognizes that these apes are special and approaches them with the respect that would be afforded another colony. Of course it's all reminiscent of the settlement of America and the dispute over resources.
As is expected from a summer blockbuster, the special effects in the film are outstanding. The creation of one of the cutest baby chimps is masterful (and tear-worthy). The humanity Serkis instils in Cesar is off-putting in its authenticity, but it’s precisely that quality that draws the audience to the apes’ cause. The final shot of the film emphasizes this feature as the camera zooms in to focus solely on Cesar’s eyes — a very creepy and ominous image. Clarke is effortless in his performance, allowing his compassion to shine through even in the most difficult moments. And when it’s necessary for him to take a stand, he does so with vigour. Gary Oldman is the counter-leader to Clarke’s Malcolm, quicker to jump to force than diplomacy when confronted with a live obstacle and prepared to make dangerous choices.
This film is an improvement over its predecessor, which tended to occasionally miss the mark. As the picture slowly evolves into a war film, the tone of the narrative becomes darker. There are still the necessary clichés, though overall the movie strikes the right chords. Director Matt Reeves is effectively establishing himself as a filmmaker to watch in the horror/sci-fi genre. Most appropriately, “live and let live” is the narrative’s strongest sentiment and its most challenged.
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Andy Serkis
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