I haven’t seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, but I am familiar with the series. The only one I’ve seen was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I was pleased with what I saw. It featured an underrated performance by James Franco (before he became a complete joke) as Will, a scientist testing his Alzheimer’s cure on his father and then on a chimp named Caesar. I couldn’t have asked for a better climax resulting in an incredible build-up for the sequel. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I’ve seen last night), director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) takes the story to a whole new level.
The movie opens in 2016, where our hero Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his group of apes unleashed a virus leaving billions around the world dead. The reason for this is that they could make peace for themselves. After taking San Francisco by storm a decade earlier, Caesar and his apes have settled in Muir Woods. He becomes the leader of the apes; learning that apes are equal, and they should not kill other apes (nod to George Orwell’s Animal Farm). He has a family; his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) becomes ill after giving birth. His son Blue Eyes is walking in the forest when he spots a human.
The human, Carver (Kirk Acevado) is one of the few hundred survivors of the virus outbreak. He’s a member of a group, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), struggling to make peace. With no power in the city, the group decide to enter Muir Woods to generate a dam that might restore the power. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the head of the survivors, doesn’t appreciate the apes living on Earth. He decides to go to war with the apes to prove who’s the dominant species.
Caesar has as much respect for the survivors as for the apes like he did with Will in Rise. Even though he acts like a human-being, he is really sympathetic to humans. In one emotional scene, Malcolm and his family find shelter in Caesar’s childhood home when the war between man and apes is taking place. Caesar stays up in the attic for the night as he finds a fully charged camcorder. He presses ‘play’ and he watches a video of himself (as an infant) being taught by Will. After the video, Malcolm asks him “Who was that in the video?” “A good man,” Caesar responds, “Like you.” However, his lieutenant Koba (one of the best villains in recent memory), prefers to kill every human-being on Earth. This is understandable that he leads the other apes to war against the humans for Caesar. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits it out of the park with emotion.
Reeves brilliantly captures the ruined city of San Francisco and the apes’ settlement with an allegorical, emotionally powerful and action-packed story as intelligent as the apes themselves. It looks like the humans are actually corresponding to the computer-generated primates without pretending they aren’t even there. The motion capture is as phenomenal as ever; it makes us forget we’re watching an actor capturing the ape’s body language rather than a realistic CGI creation. I think it’s time that Andy Serkis receives a special achievement Oscar for bringing this wonderful technology to life. From Gollum to King Kong to Caesar, he’s definitely brought motion capture to the next level. If it isn’t for him, it would probably get old very fast. This is how a sequel is made!