Rise and Dawn might mean the same thing, but the differences between the two films in 20th Century Fox’s successful franchise reboot couldn’t be more apparent. Where Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes sacrificed spectacle for story to offer a pleasant change from the numerous mediocre Hollywood remakes that surrounded it, its successor strikes a perfect balance between the two. It’s as much a compelling continuation of the apes genesis tale as it is a bigger, bolder and altogether more complete summer spectacle.
The narrative picks up a decade after its predecessor where the lab-born virus ALZ-113 (Simian Flu) has spread across the globe, wiped out nearly all of the human population and transformed the Earth into a primitive, post-apocalyptic world. Cloverfield creator Matt Reeves replaces Rise’s Rupert Wyatt to direct a sequel that offers a gritty, realistic portrayal of this fascinating dystopia where a fragile human race are forced to coexist with a thriving nation of genetically modified apes. It’s a slow burning narrative that explores the tensions that surround the escalating conflict rather than indulging in the excesses of overblown Hollywood products. When its moments of intense action arrive, with all the spectacular visual thrills you’d expect of any blockbuster, it’s the intelligent narrative and detailed characters that make it so emotionally affecting.
The much advertised interspecies war is a significant draw, but the biggest selling point of the rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise is its groundbreaking visual effects and this sequel doesn’t disappoint. The motion capture technologies that were heavily praised first time around have been pushed even further to create a fully immersive environment and transform MoCap pioneer Andy Serkis and his co stars into even more astonishingly realistic apes. The well-developed human characters alongside the impressively crafted apes allows Reeves to mirror the tragic simian vs human conflict at the centre of his science fiction with the wars and social frictions of today. The result is a film that asks pertinent questions of current real-life conflicts and resonates a deeper social meaning. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes was billed as a film that explores the humanity within apes, where in fact it exposes the beast that resides within man.
It’s not without flaws as an overuse in cliché renders it an entertaining, but almost entirely predictable experience. However, in a summer with so few outstanding releases, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes represents everything a big blockbuster should be as an intelligent, captivating thrill. It’s far from film of the year material, but it might just be the best blockbuster you’ll see.