Let Slip the Apes of War – ★★★★
Most of humanity have perished thanks to a simian flu and the apes have taken to the woods over the previous ten years. We are told this in the standard newsreel footage playing over the intro to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and then the camera slowly pans out revealing a war painted Caesar leading his troop into an attack.
The first twenty minutes set out how the apes are living now with most of the dialogue being subtitled sign language. This gives us a chance to marvel in the motion-captured CGI wizardry at work. Andy Serkis once again dons the black velvet for his role as Caesar and presumably the campaign starts here for a leading actor Oscar nod. The transition from sign language to talking is flawless, instilling the right amount of suspense when needed and never descending into whimsy or farce which could have easily happened
Of course it isn’t long before those damn dirty humans turn up striking uncertainty and fear into the primates. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the chief homo sapien, but is keen not to cause a war. He simply wants access to the dam which is within the ape territory. It’s the only chance the few remaining humans have of survival, but old grudges and mistrust threaten to bring both groups to the brink of war.
The most intriguing segment is the power struggle between Caesar and Koba (Toby Kebbell). Koba was the victim of animal testing and feels humans should never be trusted, leaving him at loggerheads with Caesar who wants to give the humans a chance having experienced their affection before. The film is all very Shakespearean with power struggles, back-stabbing and plotting galore. It is one big allegory for the war and conflict which never goes away – as we see in Ukraine and Palestine at present. This leaves for some incredibly tense action segments with dazzlingly visuals where you aren’t exactly sure of the outcome. Director Matt Reeves showed he is more than capable of directing big budget movies and is the obvious choice to stay on for the next instalment.
The humans play second fiddle to the apes (as it should be perhaps) but are crucial none the less, propelling the action forward and enabling us to warm towards the chimps. When you compare the character development between the human boy Alexander and Caesar’s son Blue Eyes it’s clear to see where the writers spent their energy. This means Gary Oldman et al have little to do but they serve their purpose well. The only minor quibble comes with the ending where it’s clear they had the green light for a sequel before this even came out.
The best blockbuster so far of the silly season and we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if Guardians of the Galaxy can knock it off top spot but I’d imagine it’ll be hanging in there come end of year lists.
Released across Ireland on July 17th 2014