Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) (DVD review).

When I read the novelisation of ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ earlier in the year, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the original ‘Battle Of The Planet Of The Apes’. The roles have changed somewhat but many of the plot elements are similar and albeit toned down. At least no one has they hand on the doomsday bomb this time.


The apes, led by Caesar (actor Andy Serkis), have the forest outside of San Francisco to themselves believing mankind has died of the ‘simian virus’ ten years earlier, until a small group of humans go in to get the hydroelectric power of the dam working. Unfortunately, a surprised Carver {actor {NAME} shoots Ash, son of Rocket, out of fear. Not fatally, but Caesar sends Koba (actor Toby Kebbell) to see where they came from and then leads them all to warn the humans to stay away from the forest. Unfortunately, they are running short of fuel and so Malcolm (actor Jason Clarke) convinces leader Drefus (actor Gary Oldman) that he must go and explain what they were doing there and hopefully complete the plan. Malcolm says the alternative is to draw what weapons they have and battle which is something Drefus actually prefers.

Makes you wonder how they got to the dam undetected in the first place when you see both teams go up to the dam. An agreement is reached although there is dissent on both sides for a peaceful solution. It does make me wonder why Malcolm include Carver in his team considering what a liability he was the first time around.

In many respects, this is a game of peddling one step forward and two steps back with the more aggressive humans and the apes seeking peace but not fully trusting each other. If anything, you’ll side with the apes. Man still has a lot of growing up to do and not accepting that these apes are intelligent or that they are afraid of the competition. I do wonder what would have happened if intelligence apes had developed in the UK rather than the USA if we would get on better.

After Koba shoots and apparently kills Caesar, blaming the humans, he leads the apes in conquering the humans in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Malcolm and his team find Caesar still alive and nurse Ellie (actress Keri Russell) thinks they can help with medical supplies. Staying at Caesar’s old home, Malcolm goes deeper into the city and while returning with medical supplies encounters Blue Eyes (actor {NAME}), Caesar’s son who although initially sided with Koba does not like the fact that Caesar’s own team are in chains themselves. Another rebellion is realised. I wonder if they ever considered calling this film ‘Rebellion On The Planet Of The Apes’ considering what goes on throughout.

There’s an odd time differential of two days where Caesar is recovering and his son releases the apes loyal to him which makes me ponder on what Koba was doing in the meantime and why didn’t spot what Drefus was doing. Some development here would have made more sense to the plot than leave it so gaping here, especially when you consider so many of the humans were captive at the time. It’s almost as though Gary Oldman’s role has been short-changed to keep the film at around the two hour mark when another ten minutes would have made sense. Saying that, a little more restructuring would have resolved that although I expect at the cost of the ape time which is still probably the most expensive part of the film.

Like with the novelisation, the problems I had there are still expounded in the film. These humans look too healthy considering the lack of food they would have had in the city. The same also applies to the apes themselves because I doubt that a redwood forest could supply two thousand apes the right kind of food for that long. Both sides would have had to adopt farming techniques let alone storing for out of season let alone winters.

There is definitely something missing in not showing how Drefus and his closest associates escaped capture and their own plans. Malcolm certainly failed in convincing Drefus that not all apes were the same, just as much as Caesar failed in convincing his own kind that Koba was out of step with peaceful intensions.

Looking objectively at the apes. As much as Serkis and co get the motions of the apes right, I can’t help but compare to David Brin’s ‘Uplift’ novels where the apes could use their feet equally well. No doubt a third film might explore this option even if the mime actors will have to ponder how. With the gallery, it compares the size of the actors to their ape counter-parts where they essentially lose a foot in height. I suspect even motion capture has some limits.

In some aspects of the plot, this is very simple and yet, for a two hour film, this is a rather compelling story to watch. My arguments with plot-holes only occur with the latter part of the film. The unity between the two groups is family and yet is isn’t always re-enforced as much as it could be. I think too complex a plot, like the first film, ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ would not have been so good though. I do think that there’s a lot more explanation of events in the novelisation that isn’t brought across in the film and this isn’t no disrespect to the actors. With so much of the film having sub-titles of what the apes are saying, it might seem like a foreign language film and there is more from intent than thinking process.

The other extra is an eight minute ‘Andy Serkis: Rediscovering Caesar’ feature where he shows how he provided the emotional content to the film. His insightfulness into the performance of Caesar brings it all together.

I like the choice of a five second auto advance for the picture gallery as it saves a lot of button presses.

If you can get the Sainsbury’s edition, the second DVD contains a 45 minute lecture by Andy Serkis to a French audience prior to ‘Dawn’s release, showing scenes from the film that aren’t always quite completed and is, again, very insightful. It’s no wonder Serkis is seen with so much high regard in the industry.

Despite my criticisms, ‘‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ is still compelling viewing and there’s still the old question of what happens next?

GF Willmetts

November 2014

(region 2 DVD: pub: 20th Century Fox. 2 DVDs 125 minute film with extras. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ASIN: B00DHJTBF6)

supermarket Sainsbury’s edition has a second exclusive DVD which will be labelled on the box.

Sub-titles in film for those who can’t read chimpanzee sign language

cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell

check out website: www.fox.co.uk

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