Film: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 December, 2014, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 December, 2014, 11:31pm

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Director: Matt Reeves

Back in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes picked up the storied franchise and injected new life into it, making full use of modern effects and drawing on modern and universal concerns in a way that satisfied the old crusties weaned on the original films (made from 1968 onwards) while appealing to a younger demographic who wanted more than just actors in furry suits.

It was a worldwide box office hit and the first surprise in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is how much better director Matt Reeves' addition to the saga proves to be. The clues were there. The cult monster hit Cloverfield (2008) showed Reeves knew how to do suspense and hinted that he might be able to handle a blockbuster. But the odds on him producing an almost perfect summer-style tent-pole actioner were even then considered long.

Even so, that's exactly what Reeves has done. We pick up the story with the ape Caesar and his followers living in the woods outside San Francisco, or what remains of the city following mankind's demise. Disease and war have reduced humanity's numbers and hopes, and what grabs the viewer from the first frames - and never lets go - is the sense of foreboding dread.

Andy Serkis - hidden beneath the make-up and effects that make Caesar so "real" - plays up to this sense perfectly, with his furrowed, worried brow and an ape-like gait, which suggests the whole world is on his shoulders.

It is, of course. The two sides are destined to clash and Reeves gives us plenty of pause for thought among the action, as he plays up themes that have haunted humanity for all time, such as how we perceive and respond to the world around us.

First and foremost, though, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes becomes a thrilling ride as the forces of evil on both sides plot and scheme, while others seek some kind of understanding. That Reeves and his team have made it all so easy to believe is a testament to their skills as storytellers and filmmakers. The next instalment can't come soon enough.

Extras: Andy Serkis: Rediscovering Caesar featurette; galleries